Background: Radiation therapy plays an important role in the loco-regional control of carcinoma of the cervix. Strict adherence to the radiation protocol, without the introduction of time breaks, has been shown to favorably affect loco-regional control and survival, making adherence a crucial variable for optimal outcome. Because carcinoma of the cervix is a common disease among Latinas, with survival rates worse than those of other ethnic groups in this country, the pattern of adherence to the prescribed radiation treatment among Latina patients seen at Los Angeles County Hospital were studied.
Methods: The records of 69 consecutive Latina patients with cervical cancer who received radiation therapy at Los Angeles County Hospital were reviewed. Semi-structured interviews in a successive group of 30 similar patients were conducted to acquire preliminary information about their psychosocial characteristics.
Results: The results demonstrate inferior rates of optimal adherence to radiation treatment among Latina immigrant patients when compared with the rates reported in the literature for the general population of cervical cancer patients in United States (16 vs. 63%). Furthermore, a large subset of patients (20%) in the series elected to discontinue treatment without a medical reason. When a comparable group of Latina patients was interviewed, potential practical, psychologic, and cultural barriers to optimal care were identified.
Conclusions: The results from this exploratory study support the need for further studies to document the pattern of adherence to radiotherapy in the rest of the country among this minority population. The results suggest that an intervention to improve information and adherence to radiation therapy may be necessary to assure Latinas a chance for rates of cure comparable with the national standards.