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Distress Levels Higher in Spanish-Speaking Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Radiotherapy: A Study by Boston University School of Medicine

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Ayanna Amadi
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Distress Levels Higher in Spanish-Speaking Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Radiotherapy: A Study by Boston University School of Medicine

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Higher Distress Levels in Spanish-Speaking Patients

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A recent study by the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine at Boston University has revealed that Spanish-speaking patients undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer exhibit higher distress levels compared to English-speaking patients. The researchers found that this distress increased over the course of treatment for Spanish-speakers, while it decreased for English-speakers.

Factors Contributing to Heightened Distress

The study identified several factors that contributed to the higher distress levels among Spanish-speaking patients. These included race, ethnicity, housing, and food insecurity. These factors were shown to contribute to an increased level of distress for Spanish speakers before their treatment began. Over the course of the treatment, this distress level continued to rise, contrasting to the reduced distress levels seen among English-speaking patients.

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The Impact of Language Barriers

Another research study also highlighted the impact of language barriers on hope among patients with Central Nervous System Malignancies and Bone Metastases. Patients who required an interpreter had significantly lower overall AHS scores and pathway thinking scores, suggesting that language barriers might lead to a lower understanding of their disease. This further underlines the importance of addressing patient language barriers in the medical field.

Addressing the Issue: Potential Interventions

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The researchers from Boston University suggest potential interventions such as preferred language education sessions or informational calls to alleviate the heightened distress experienced by Spanish-speaking patients. These tailored strategies could help mediate the differences in distress levels and combat increased distress throughout the radiation therapy process.

Need for Holistic Care

In addition to addressing language barriers, there is a need for a more holistic approach that encompasses emotional well-being and family support in cancer treatment protocols. A study exploring patient experiences identified complex challenges patients face while navigating Cancer Patient Pathways (CPPs), including the need for better transition support, improved coordination and continuity in care. The care element deserves more attention to truly provide holistic person-centered care and continuous well-coordinated services.

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Implications of the Study

The findings of this research are crucial in guiding initial changes to mediate differences in distress levels. By identifying the factors contributing to higher distress levels in Spanish-speaking patients, intervention strategies can be developed to help these patients, ultimately improving their quality of life and treatment outcomes.

Conclusion

The study by Boston University School of Medicine highlights the need to screen all Spanish-speaking patients for risk factors that may increase their distress throughout treatment. By addressing language barriers and implementing interventions such as language-specific education sessions or informational calls, healthcare providers can help reduce the distress levels in Spanish-speaking patients and improve their overall treatment experience.

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