Highly educated cancer patients often receive better treatment than their counterparts with only limited education. They are also more likely to receive treatment intended to cure the patient, which is one of the reasons highly educated patients have a higher survival rate.
These are the conclusions of research carried out by Epidemiologist Mieke Aarts from the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. She compared the medical histories of more than 250,000 patients who contracted cancer between 1990 and 2008.
One explanation for the difference in survival rate could be that highly educated patients are able to communicate better with their doctor, who is then more likely to provide more detailed information and possible also more likely to point out which experimental treatments are available.
Highly educated patients are also more likely to gather information on experimental treatments. A doctor is then more inclined to consider such treatments.
Mieke Aarts found that patients with little formal education were more likely to receive hormonal treatment and standard external radiation therapy. Highly educated patients were more likely to undergo surgery and internal radiation therapy.
Of all highly educated men to contract this variety of cancer, nearly half were still alive after five year compared to just one third of the men with little education. Aarts says that the difference in survival rates is mainly due to a difference in treatment.
In a reaction, the Netherlands Cancer Institute says that an invasive treatment is not necessarily always the best treatment. “Sometimes you have to put the brakes on the wishes of the higher educated,” a spokesperson said.
However, he added that “Maybe we should ask ourselves whether we provide those with little education with sufficient information about their disease so they can take the best decision possible.”
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide