Home > News > 'Death by Stereotype?'

More News

 
internship communication spca

Internship helps animals

As an intern, 2021 communication graduate Regina Donato gained valuable experience while helping the Delaware SPCA "make a name for ourselves on social media," the organization says.
 
fulbright student award 2021

Fulbright winner

Kathrin Reed, a doctoral student in political science and international relations, has received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award, which she will use to conduct field research in Cambodia.
 
CONNECT
Make a GiftYouTubeEMailTwitter

'Death by Stereotype?'

Image Picker for Section 0
Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Unmarried cancer patients may receive second-best treatment

Illustration showing patients

Unmarried patients often have strong support systems that may be overlooked or discounted by medical providers, says Joan DelFattore.

Unmarried patients with cancer are less likely to get potentially life-saving surgery or radiotherapy than their married counterparts, raising the concern that medical providers may be relying on stereotypes that discount sources of social support other than a current spouse.

Thats the conclusion reached by the University of Delawares Joan DelFattore, a professor emerita of English who combined her personal experience as an unmarried patient with her skills as a researcher to publish a peer-reviewed article in the latest issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Titled Death by Stereotype? Cancer Treatment in Unmarried Patients, the article examines 84 medical articles that draw on a massive National Cancer Institute database to show that patients are significantly less likely to receive surgery or radiotherapy if they are not currently married. 

Although this disparity has been attributed in studies to such factors as patients treatment preferences or a weaker will to live among unmarried people, DelFattore found that those speculations are not only unsupported by data but actually conflict with extensive research findings. Rather, her article suggests that cultural stereotypes inappropriately influence the treatments recommended for unmarried patients with cancer.

The central issue for physicians is the social support that patients need, especially if their treatments require numerous healthcare visits or may cause debilitating side effects. But while unmarried people often have especially strong networks of friends and community ties, medical researchers tend to equate social support with having a spouse, DelFattore found.

The statistics definitely show a connection between marital status and the treatment patients receive, she said. There are people getting sick and getting second-best treatment. 

Some patients married as well as unmarried certainly lack the social support necessary to handle aggressive treatment, but that generalization cant possibly apply to nearly half the adult population, she said. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 45% of U.S. adults are unmarried.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Joan DelFattore

Joan DelFattore

DelFattore is part of that population, and when she was diagnosed in 2011 with advanced gallbladder cancer, she relied on her network of friends, colleagues, neighbors and extended family to help her. As she recounts in the journal article, her surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center accepted her description of her friend-based support network without question.

At the time, she didnt realize that his acceptance couldnt be taken for granted, but when she went for post-surgery chemotherapy, the first doctor she saw asked about her marital status and continued to focus on that subject. Even after she tried to explain the support she had available, the oncologist recommended a milder course of treatment that DelFattore knew was not the most effective.

He wouldnt risk serious side effects [of the more aggressive treatment] with, as he put it, someone in your situation, she writes. She changed doctors and was given the harsher, more effective chemotherapy by an oncologist who accepted that she had the necessary support.

DelFattore is concerned that doctors might rely on medical researchers who, in turn, are citing sociological and psychological studies that dont say what the researchers assume they say.

Even if medical researchers mean to recommend whats best for patients, as they presumably do, their reliance on stereotypes about unmarried adults is misleading, especially when they misinterpret sociological and psychological studies that do not, in fact, support those stereotypes, DelFattore said.

For example, she said, almost all authors in the 84 articles she reviewed equate marriage with social support, but the psychological and sociological studies they cite to support that claim dont even mention the words marriage, marital or spouse, she said. Instead, those studies talk about social support as a complex web of connections that cant be reduced to a single element.

Consistent with longstanding social stereotypes, DelFattore said, doctors may use the question about marital status as a kind of shorthand way to ask about social support. Once they hear the word unmarried, they may stop there.

DelFattore is quick to point out that shes not the person who discovered the differences in treatment between married and unmarried patients. Based on her review of articles, its been known since at least 1987 that cancer patients with a current spouse are more likely to get surgery or radiotherapy than those who are divorced, separated, widowed or never married, she said.

This is not shocking news, she said of the disparity. Whats shocking is that its been buried in the fine print of academic journals and footnotes for over 30 years.

Now, she said, she hopes her journal article will raise awareness and spur additional research. She also hopes that, just as medical schools now teach about the dangers of unintentional racial and gender bias in treating patients, theyll also start discussing marital status.

Im not writing about this and advocating for change out of anger or outrage, she said. Its not about blame. Its about asking people to examine their assumptionsin this case, with respect to potentially life-or-death decisions. Medicine has to evolve, not only in science and technology, but also with respect to an evolving society.

Article by Ann Manser; illustration by Jeffrey C. Chase

Published Sept. 19, 2019

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

 

 
Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

 

 
Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

 

 
Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

 

 
News Story Supporting Images and Text
Used in the Home Page News Listing and for the News Rollup Page
Joan DelFattore combined her personal experience and her research skills to examine how views of unmarried cancer patients may affect their care.
9/19/2019
No
Page Settings and MetaData:
(Not Shown on the Page)
Page Settings
cancer care unmarried bias
No
 
 
MetaData for Search Engine Optimization
'Death by Stereotype?'