Cancer Health Disparities

MUSC Hollings Cancer Center is dedicated to serving the needs of everyone in the state, including in our rural and medically underserved areas. Part of our mission extends to addressing health disparities in our state.

Health disparities are defined as the inequalities that occur in the provision of health care and access to health care across different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Addressing these disparities is vital in reducing the overall cancer burden in South Carolina, improving cancer outcomes, and increasing the quality of life for cancer survivors in these vulnerable populations.

MUSC has a long history of addressing health disparities as a key part of its vision. With leading national experts in cancer health disparities, Hollings is part of setting new standards of care and treatment.

graphic showing the factors that contribute to U.S. cancer health disparities

Addressing the need

South Carolina map showing community outreach activites by county with every county served by at least 1 program
  • Hollings patients come from every county in South Carolina.
  • 75% of South Carolina's counties include rural areas. Potential barriers to care for rural residents include transportation issues, distance to specialty care sites, and access to clinical trials.
  • The Hollings Mobile Health Unit provides services in all 46 counties across the state.
  • The Sea Island population is uniquely positioned to allow genetic studies of complex diseases such as hormone-related cancer.
  • South Carolina has a much higher percentage of Black people than the average U.S. state, with Black residents accounting for 27% of all state residents. Black people have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial or ethnic group for most cancers in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.
  • More than 15% of South Carolinians fall below the poverty level, which is higher than the national average. Poverty is associated with worse cancer outcomes and a higher risk of death.

Leading experts

Many Hollings researchers and clinicians are leading the charge to address cancer health disparities. Marvella Ford, Ph.D., is a nationally-recognized expert in the field.

Marvella Ford, Ph.D.

Marvella Ford standing inside office building in sunlight

Dr. Ford contributed to a health disparities volume that curates the latest in best practices in addressing these issues. The professor of public health sciences and associate director of Population Science and Community Outreach and Engagement at Hollings says the volume brings together a spectrum of research from the basic sciences to the population sciences to address cancer health equity.

Ford also is the SmartState Endowed Chair of Cancer Health Equity Research at South Carolina State University (SCSU), where Hollings has formed SC CADRE, a partnership between MUSC and SCSU that aims to create a future generation of cancer researchers specially trained to improve cancer health outcomes for South Carolinians.

Cancer disparities are a big public health problem in the United States. The goal of cancer disparities research is ultimately to reduce and eliminate these disparities.

Dr. Marvella Ford

Dr. Marvella Ford

Statewide Initiatives

Hollings has many statewide initiatives to address health disparities.

National Cancer Institute Minority/Underserved Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP-MU)

MUSC is one of only 14 NCORP-MU sites in the country devoted to serving minority and underserved populations. The goal of this program is to bring cancer clinical trials to individuals in their own communities.

South Carolina AMEN Program

The SC AMEN Program at Hollings is an innovative and timely approach to address prostate cancer disparities among Black men through prostate cancer education sessions.

South Carolina Cancer Disparities Research Center

The South Carolina Cancer Disparities Research Center (SC CADRE), a partnership between South Carolina State University and MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, aims to create a future generation of cancer researchers specially trained to improve cancer health outcomes for South Carolinians.

Education & Awareness Programs

Hollings offers a variety of community-based educational programs to empower people to be advocates in their own communities.