Barriers to cancer treatment for people experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage in high-income countries: a scoping review

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Bourgeois, Amber
Horrill, Tara
Mollison, Ashley
Stringer, Eleah
Lambert, Leah K.
Stajduhar, Kelli
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Abstract Background Despite advances in cancer research and treatment, the burden of cancer is not evenly distributed. People experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage have higher rates of cancer, later stage at diagnoses, and are dying of cancers that are preventable and screen-detectable. However, less is known about barriers to accessing cancer treatment. Methods We conducted a scoping review of studies examining barriers to accessing cancer treatment for populations experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage in high-income countries, searched across four biomedical databases. Studies published in English between 2008 and 2021 in high-income countries, as defined by the World Bank, and reporting on barriers to cancer treatment were included. Results A total of 20 studies were identified. Most (n = 16) reported data from the United States, and the remaining included publications were from Canada (n = 1), Ireland (n = 1), United Kingdom (n = 1), and a scoping review (n = 1). The majority of studies (n = 9) focused on barriers to breast cancer treatment. The most common barriers included: inadequate insurance and financial constraints (n = 16); unstable housing (n = 5); geographical distribution of services and transportation challenges (n = 4); limited resources for social care needs (n = 7); communication challenges (n = 9); system disintegration (n = 5); implicit bias (n = 4); advanced diagnosis and comorbidities (n = 8); psychosocial dimensions and contexts (n = 6); and limited social support networks (n = 3). The compounding effect of multiple barriers exacerbated poor access to cancer treatment, with relevance across many social locations. Conclusion This review highlights barriers to cancer treatment across multiple levels, and underscores the importance of identifying patients at risk for socioeconomic disadvantage to improve access to treatment and cancer outcomes. Findings provide an understanding of barriers that can inform future, equity-oriented policy, practice, and service innovation.
BMC Health Services Research. 2024 May 28;24(1):670