Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 235–240 | Cite as

Cultural aspects of communication in cancer care

  • Antonella SurboneEmail author
Review Article


Cultural competence in oncology requires the acquisition of specific knowledge, clinical skills, and attitudes that facilitate effective cross-cultural negotiation in the clinical setting, thus, leading to improved therapeutic outcomes and decreased disparities in cancer care. Cultural competence in oncology entails a basic knowledge of different cultural attitudes and practices of communication of the truth and of decision-making styles throughout the world. Cultural competence always presupposes oncology professionals’ awareness of their own cultural beliefs and values. To be able to communicate with cancer patients in culturally sensitive ways, oncologists should have knowledge of the concept of culture in its complexity and of the risks of racism, classism, sexism, ageism, and stereotyping that must be avoided in clinical practice. Oncologists should develop a sense of appreciation for differences in health care values, based on the recognition that no culture can claim hegemony over others and that cultures are evolving under their reciprocal influence on each other. Medical schools and oncology training can teach communication skills and cultural competence, while fostering in all students and young doctors those attitudes of humility, empathy, curiosity, respect, sensitivity, and awareness that are needed to deliver effective and culturally sensitive cancer care.


Cultural competence Communication Cancer care 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MedicineNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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