Language barriers and patient-centered breast cancer care

Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Aug;84(2):223-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.07.009. Epub 2010 Aug 3.


Objective: Provision of high quality patient-centered care is fundamental to eliminating healthcare disparities in breast cancer. We investigated physicians' experiences communicating with limited English proficient (LEP) breast cancer patients.

Methods: Survey of a random sample of California oncologists and surgeons.

Results: Of 301 respondents who reported treating LEP patients, 46% were oncologists, 75% male, 68% in private practice, and on average 33% of their patients had breast cancer. Only 40% reported at least sometimes using professional interpretation services. Although 75% felt they were usually able to communicate effectively with LEP patients, more than half reported difficulty discussing treatment options and prognosis, and 56% acknowledged having less-patient-centered treatment discussions with LEP breast cancer patients. In multivariate analysis, use of professional interpreters was associated with 53% lower odds of reporting less-patient-centered treatment discussions (OR 0.47; 95% CI 0.26-0.85).

Conclusion: California surgeons and oncologists caring for breast cancer patients report substantial communication challenges when faced with a language barrier. Although use of professional interpreters is associated with more patient-centered communication, there is a low rate of professional interpreter utilization.

Practice implications: Future research and policy should focus on increasing access to and reimbursement for professional interpreter services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms* / therapy
  • California
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Private Practice