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Low-Income Men May Not Grasp Prostate Cancer Terms

Attention to low literacy is essential to eradicate health disparities in prostate cancer outcomes

FRIDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- Low literacy levels among medically underserved men highlight the need to consider literacy and use non-medical language for prostate cancer education efforts and outcomes measures, according to a study published online ahead of print March 23 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Kerry L. Kilbridge, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues interviewed 105 men aged 40 and older -- most of them black -- who presented at two low-income clinics.

The researchers found that the median literacy level was fourth to sixth grade, and fewer than 50 percent of patients understood the terms "erection" or "impotent." Only 25 percent understood the term "bowel habits" and only 5 percent understood the term "incontinence." The investigators also found that patients had a poor knowledge of prostate cancer and difficulty locating key anatomic structures.

"We must incorporate knowledge of low literacy into transforming the entire gamut of prostate cancer care and investigation from informed consent to education to our outcomes measures," state the authors of an accompanying editorial. "Only through this complete transformation will the state of our research be most representative of all of our patients and thus most translatable from bench to the true bedside. With such full-concerted efforts, we will move closer towards eradication of health disparities."

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