Palliative care experiences of adult cancer patients from ethnocultural groups: a qualitative systematic review protocol

JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 2015 Jan;13(1):99-111. doi: 10.11124/jbisrir-2015-1809.


Review question/objective: The objective of this review is to synthesize the best available evidence on palliative care experiences of adult cancer patients from ethnocultural groups.More specifically, this systematic review seeks to answer the following questions:1. What are the palliative care experiences of adult cancer patients from diverse ethnocultural groups?2. What meanings do adult patients with cancer from diverse ethnocultural groups assign to their experiences with palliative care?

Background: Globally, over 20.4 million people need palliative care services annually. The majority of these people (19 million) are adults, with 34% of them being patients diagnosed with cancer. With the current increase in the aging population, especially in developed countries, the number of adults requiring palliative care is expected to rise. Furthermore, how palliative care is offered and received continues to be shaped by culture and ethnicity. Likewise, culture and ethnicity influence how palliative care patients experience diseases like cancer, and seek and utilize palliative care services. Also, healthcare providers sometimes find it challenging to address the palliative care needs of patients from different ethnocultural groups. Sometimes these challenges are believed to be due to cultural incompetence of the care provider. When palliative care patients and their providers differ in their perception of care needs and how to address them, negative palliative care experiences are likely to ensue. Therefore, as the demand for palliative care increases, and ethnocultural factors continue to affect palliation, it is important to gain a better understanding of palliative care experiences of patients from different ethnocultural groups.The terms culture and ethnicity have been defined and used differently in literature which sometimes lead to confusion. Ethnicity has been defined as distinctive shared origins or social backgrounds and traditions of a group of people that are maintained between generations and bring about a sense of identity that may encompass a common language and religion. Ethnicity is fluid and should not be confused with nationality or migration or race. In this review, we define ethnicity in relation to the self-identification of participants in studies that will be included in the review.Culture refers to patterns of explanatory models, beliefs, values and customs. These patterns may be informed and expressed in things like diet, clothing or rituals, or in the form of language and social or political systems. Culture may be fluid because of developments in people's lives. In light of the aforementioned definitions, and recognizing the inconsistency in how these terms are sometimes used, the authors of this review define ethnocultural patients, as described in papers to be reviewed, as those who belong to an ethnic group by way of involvement, attachment, self-labelling or attitude towards the group, and who share cultural traditions, ancestry, language, nationality or country of origin.Palliative care in the context of cancer focuses on the improvement of the quality of life of patients by addressing their physical, emotional and spiritual needs, and by supporting their families. Palliative care is often associated with supportive and hospice care. Supportive care emphasizes meeting patients' needs such as physical, mental, social, psychological, emotional and material needs from the period before diagnosis, during diagnosis, treatment to the follow-up period in the cancer trajectory. Hospice care in the context of cancer aims to relieve patients' pain and suffering, and improve their quality of life. Hospice care includes palliative care services and other services such as case management, respite care and bereavement care. Hospice care focuses on patients with terminal illness (i.e. with expected survival of less than six months) and their families. Moreover, hospice care is facilitated by a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, home health aides and volunteers.Palliative care needs for cancer patients are numerous and may include needs related to activities of daily living, communication, sexuality, physical needs, psychological needs, fear, spiritual wellbeing, socioeconomic aspects and insufficiency of information. Cancer patients often report of suffering, pain and being in constant need of support. In dealing with their suffering, some patients seek internal motivation by looking at the disease as a life challenge. Other patients turn to external sources of motivation like religion, or peer and family support groups.Patients from different ethnocultural groups report similar as well as dissimilar palliative care needs and experiences. With respect to similarities, a study from the United States found that African American and Caucasian patients alike valued practical assistance from social groups. Participants from both ethnocultural groups valued friends and families that listened to their cancer-related concerns. Similarly, Turkish and Moroccan patients in a study conducted in Netherlands valued friends and family members that were there for them. Additionally, participants particularly of African American descent treasured positive attitudes from people around them and valued support from religion and faith communities. These sentiments are echoed in a palliative care study conducted in the United Kingdom. In the UK study, Caribbean Blacks and British White patients appreciated the significance of social networks and partner or spousal support in their cancer trajectory.In regards to unsupportive palliative care experiences, authors of the United States study report that African Americans and Caucasians had more similarities than differences. Firstly, both ethnocultural groups shared experiences of losing association with family and close friends after they learnt of the patients' diagnosis. These sentiments were also reported by Danish-born and immigrant patients in a study by Kristiansen and colleagues. Secondly, both African American and Caucasian patients felt responsible for the emotional wellbeing of their loved ones.When it comes to differences in palliative care needs and experiences, Grange and colleagues report that African American and Caucasian participants valued provision of housing which included daily patient care. Participants treasured the opportunity to either move or have family members move in and live with them. However, more African American than Caucasian participants had experiences of moving in with a family member. Important differences in unsupportive palliative care were also reported. Although both African Americans and Caucasians lost friends and family members following knowledge of the cancer diagnoses, more African Americans than Caucasians were likely to report losing friendship. Additionally, African Americans experienced diminished independence mainly because of overprotection from family and friends. Diminishing independence is echoed in the Dutch study involving Turkish and Moroccan patients. However, in the Dutch study, healthcare providers appeared to advocate for patients' independence which contradicted with the value placed by family members in protecting their loved one.In another American study, Latina women desired health-related information more often than their Caucasian American counterparts. The need for information by Latina women was irrespective of their socio-demographic factors, including level of education.The aforementioned similarities and differences in palliative care experiences call for further exploration of ethnocultural palliative care patients' experiences. A better understanding of their experiences will create avenues for finding better ways of providing palliative care, preventing psychological distress and improving quality of life and death.Understanding ethnocultural issues is important because the unique characteristics of ethnocultural groups often inform approaches to palliative care. Ethnocultural meanings of illness, suffering and dying define the theoretical underpinnings that patients and healthcare providers draw upon in their relations. Furthermore, Baker suggests that the provision and receipt of palliative care is more related to culture or ethnicity than to age, education, socioeconomic status or other variables. Moreover, culture affects communication, decision-making, response to symptoms, treatment choices and emotional expression at the end of life.Palliative care patients often regard recommendations from healthcare providers as very useful. Similarly, healthcare providers may find ethnocultural knowledge beneficial in the provision of palliative care. When ethnocultural knowledge is lacking, healthcare providers, especially those with minimal training on ethnocultural issues, may provide unsatisfactory palliative care. Similarly, when ethnocultural differences are overlooked or inadequately addressed, inferior care often occurs. Inferior care which may involve inequality in utilization of and access to palliative care services, pain and symptom management and location of death, is especially disturbing when adequate palliative care resources exist in some health institutions.Although qualitative and quantitative research has been conducted in this area, no systematic review compiling findings on ethnocultural patients' experiences of palliative care has been conducted or is underway as per the Joanna Briggs Institute Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews or PROSPERO. The purpose of this systematic review is to summarize findings of qualitative studies that focus on ethnocultural patients' experience of palliative care. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Culture
  • Decision Making
  • Ethnicity / psychology
  • Family
  • Hospice Care / standards
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Religion
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic
  • Terminal Care / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States / ethnology

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