Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Cancer Center researchers have developed a tool to quickly measure patients’ cancer health literacy. This first-of-its-kind tool gives physicians an immediately clearer understanding of their patients’ individual needs, helping to improve health outcomes and reduce disparities in care for specific populations.

As VCU reports, the Cancer Health Literacy Test (CHLT)-30 is a one- to two-minute survey that asks patients 30 questions about cancer treatment, 6 of which are specifically designed to quickly identify individuals with limited CHL. VCU researchers conducted a four-year study of the tool – recently published in the Journal of Health Communicationand found it to accurately measure CHL and quickly identify patients with limited CHL. The study also found that African American, undereducated, and low-income patients were over-represented among those with limited CHL.

Lead researcher Levent Dumenci, PhD, notes the importance of a tool such as this, “because of the complex treatment options that cancer patients face, along with the increased demand for self-care.” Physicians who know the level of their patients’ understanding can provide the right type and amount of information to ensure their patients can effectively make decisions, handle medications, and take better care of themselves.