Treatment decision making experiences of migrant cancer patients and their families in Australia

Patient Educ Couns. 2015 Jun;98(6):742-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2015.01.012. Epub 2015 Jan 24.


Objective: To explore treatment decision-making experiences of Australian migrants with cancer from Arabic, Chinese, or Greek backgrounds and their relatives.

Methods: 73 patients and 18 caregivers from cancer support groups and oncology clinics participated in either a focus group (n=14) or semi-structured interview (n=21) conducted in the participant's own language. Participant treatment decision-making preferences were discussed as part of patients' overall treatment experience and a thematic analysis conducted.

Results: Four main themes emerged from the data: (1) perceived role of the patient in decision-making; (2) access to information and the impact of language; (3) cultural influences (4) family involvement. The majority of participants experienced passive involvement during treatment consultations, but expressed a desire for greater involvement. Language rather than culture was a greater obstacle to active participation. Difficulty communicating effectively in English was the most significant barrier to participation in treatment decisions. To overcome language challenges, participants actively sought information from alternative sources.

Conclusion: This study provides new insights into the influence of language and culture on the treatment decision-making experiences of migrants with cancer and their families within the Australian cancer care system.

Practice implications: To reduce health disparities doctors need to address language difficulties and be aware of cultural differences.

Keywords: Culture; Migrant cancer patient; Qualitative research; Share decision-making; Treatment decision making.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Communication Barriers
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Cultural Competency*
  • Decision Making*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Patient Participation
  • Physicians
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self-Help Groups
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology*
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data