Perceptions, expectations, and attitudes about communication with physicians among Chinese American and non-Hispanic white women with early stage breast cancer
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- Wang, J.Hy., Adams, I.F., Pasick, R.J. et al. Support Care Cancer (2013) 21: 3315. doi:10.1007/s00520-013-1902-8
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Asian Americans have consistently reported poorer communication with physicians compared with non-Hispanic Whites (NHW). This qualitative study sought to elucidate the similarities and differences in communication with physicians between Chinese and NHW breast cancer survivors.
Forty-four Chinese and 28 NHW women with early stage breast cancer (stage 0-IIa) from the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry participated in focus group discussions or individual interviews. We oversampled Chinese women because little is known about their cancer care experiences. In both interview formats, questions explored patients' experiences and feelings when communicating with physicians about their diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care.
Physician empathy at the time of diagnosis was important to both ethnic groups; however, during treatment and follow-up care, physicians' ability to treat cancer and alleviate physical symptoms was a higher priority. NHW and US-born Chinese survivors were more likely to assert their needs, whereas Chinese immigrants accepted physician advice even when it did not alleviate physical problems (e.g., pain). Patients viewed all physicians as the primary source for information about cancer care. Many Chinese immigrants sought additional information from primary care physicians and stressed optimal communication over language concordance.
Physician empathy and precise information were important for cancer patients. Cultural differences such as the Western emphasis on individual autonomy vs. Chinese emphasis on respect and hierarchy can be the basis for the varied approaches to physician communication we observed. Interventions based on cultural understanding can foster more effective communication between immigrant patients and physicians ultimately improving patient outcomes.