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Latina Cancer Patients May Deal With Additional Stressors

A positive diagnosis of cancer is a stressing discovery all on its own. But, for Latinas, however, another layer of stress may complicate matters making it difficult for them to cope with what lies ahead. Researchers at the University of South Florida and Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center wanted to find out more about the unique stressors Latinas face in hopes of creating more targeted support measures to help them through their battles.

An estimated 1 in 3 Latina women face cancer diagnoses at some point in their lives. They, like all other cancer patients, face the common stressors that come along with diagnosis. Researchers, however, found that Latinas do in fact face a few other concerns that have not yet previously been addressed.

To arrive at their findings, the USF and Moffitt researchers surveyed 33 Latina or Hispanic breast cancer survivors. All were at least 18 and all had undergone chemotherapy within the 12 months prior to the survey. Some of the additional stressors Latinas reported included a failure of medical staff to fully explain treatment side effects, a lack of information available in Spanish, a lack of access to support networks because of family residing elsewhere and concerns about families being taken care of, among others.

Of note, researchers found that many of their study subjects created their own culturally specific stress relievers to deal with the absence of more formalized measures being offered. Some, for example, read the Bible and relied on their faith to combat stress. Others spent a great deal of time – and money – talking with family long distance. Most also did what they could to stick to their normal routines whenever possible.

A positive diagnosis of cancer is a stressor in and of itself. For Latina women, cultural divides may compound the stress and make coping difficult. Researchers say it is time to address the concerns by making certain educational materials and support is made available to those of different cultures and heritage.

People who are diagnosed with cancer are urged to discuss their conditions and treatment with their healthcare providers. Clinicians should carefully and completely explain treatment options, potential side effects and available support. If language barriers exist, translation can prove valuable for ensuring patients make informed decisions based on the facts.

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