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Latina Patients With Breast Cancer Need More Culturally Relevant, Language-Specific Stress Management Tools

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Key Points

  • Cancer patients and care providers both agreed there is a lack of information for the Latina community about cancer, and stress and confusion can arise from communication barriers.
  • A total of 64% of patients had not received any type of stress management tools or information during their chemotherapy, although 95% of the patients would have liked such material.
  • Researchers emphasized that educational material for Latina cancer patients should be developed in their native language and written by writers who are familiar with their culture.

It is estimated that one of every three Latina women will be diagnosed with cancer during her lifetime. Moffitt Cancer Center researchers, along with collaborators at the University of South Florida, recently published a study about the attitudes and cultural perspectives of Latinas undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. The article, published by Martinez Tyson et al in the Journal of Cancer Education, also discusses their cancer experiences and the ways they manage stress associated with cancer.

Study Details

Moffitt researchers and collaborators interviewed 33 Latina breast cancer patients, either during focus group sessions or in-depth interviews. The majority of the women were born outside of the United States, and 45% of participants stated that Spanish was their only language. The team also interviewed 10 cancer care providers and advocates to assess their opinions about Latina cancer care and compare their responses with patient responses. Sixty percent of the health care providers/advocates self-identified as Hispanic and were bilingual.

The cancer patients and care providers had some of the same opinions about the key problems facing Latina cancer patients. They agreed that there is a lack of information for the Latina community about cancer and that cancer treatment  can cause confusion and stress among patients when combined with communication barriers.

The researchers discovered several other issues that were important factors leading to stress for cancer patients that were not mentioned by their providers. Many described family-related issues as important stress inducers during cancer treatment, including fear of not being able to provide and care for their families, not wanting to be a burden to their families, and being far away from their native country and their families.

Despite these stress inducers, 64% of the cancer patients stated that they had not received any type of stress management tools or information during their chemotherapy, although 95% of the patients believed that a stress management toolkit would have been helpful.

The researchers then asked the participants how they managed the stress associated with cancer. Latina patients and their providers stated that prayer, reading the Bible, and spirituality helped reduce stress. Spending time with family and trying to maintain a normal day-to-day routine were also given as a stress-reducing option by both sets of participants. Techniques that were only mentioned by the patients with cancer included exercise, reading educational material, listening to music, staying positive, watching TV, and deep breathing exercises.

Need for Specialized Information

Researchers emphasized that educational material for Latina patients with cancer should be developed in their native language and written by writers who are familiar with their culture. It is important to consider regional variations within Latino communities throughout the United States; be inclusive of Latino families; and be cognizant of the attitudes, beliefs, and obligations of Latinas to their families. Physicians and care providers must also be aware of the ongoing stresses associated with cancer treatment and the support systems that Latinas turn to to reduce stress.

Dinorah Martinez Tyson, PhD, MPH, MA, is the corresponding author of the Journal of Cancer Education article.

The study was supported by Komen for the Cure. 

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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