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Personal Views

Ethnic issues in breast cancer treatment

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 12 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1135
  1. Kulsum Winship, chairperson
  1. Breast Cancer Advisory Committee, Barnet Health Authority

    I became aware that there was a problem when someone commented that Asian women are referred late for treatment of a breast lump. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some GPs still believe that Asian women do not develop breast cancer or that it cannot occur in young women. They, therefore, tend to dismiss the symptoms. The word “cancer” spells doom and death to many families and together with “breast” is taboo in Asian communities. As a result many women and sometimes their families become isolated.

    When they do reach hospital the lack of empathy and ignorance about minority cultures leads to further isolation. When there is a language problem, made worse by the insufficient use of interpreters, there can be considerable distress. …

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