Latina breast cancer survivors may be less likely to use psychosocial services

15 Aug 2018 2:07 PM | Brandon Davenport (Administrator)

Digest Commentator: Marguerite Gollish, B.A., University of Ottawa

Digest Editor: Mary Ann O’Brien, PhD, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto

Latino cancer patients present a higher risk for poor mental health outcomes than non-Latino whites, with higher rates of depressive symptoms for Latinas with breast cancer. Given these results, it is concerning that Latinos are also less likely than non-Latino whites to receive treatment and services to improve these outcomes. The study by Costas-Muniz and colleagues aimed to investigate interest in and self-reported use of psychosocial services before and after a breast cancer diagnosis, comparing groups of Latina and non-Latina white cancer survivors.

Methods: A questionnaire was mailed to 409 Latina and 514 non-Latina white breast cancer survivors who were in remission and who had received treatment at a single comprehensive oncology centre in the United States. Ninety-seven Latinas and 168 non-Latina white patients returned the questionnaire with an overall response rate of 30%. The questionnaire contained demographic and medical items, and self-reported use of psychosocial services before and after the cancer diagnosis. The type of service and type of professional was assessed, as well as frequency of service use.

Results: Both Latinas and non-Latina white breast cancer survivors had similar rates of contact with a psychological service provider prior to diagnosis (34%), except for religious counselling. Non-Latina whites were less likely (6%) to have had contact with a religious counsellor than Latinas (13%). After diagnosis, 43% of participants (49% Latinas and 40% non-Latina whites) reported needing or wanting psychosocial services, but of these only 61% reported using a psychosocial service. While Latinas were less likely to have had contact with social workers and to use psychotropic medication, there were no significant differences between the groups when it came to contact with psychologists or psychiatrists, or the use of psychotherapy or counselling. Although there were no significant differences in the proportion of Latinas and non-Latina whites who reported needing psychosocial services, non-Latina whites were overall more likely to have had more frequent contact with a mental health professional.

Why I liked the article: The authors provided particularly interesting considerations of how cultural and linguistic issues could explain the differences in the use of religious counselling and the use of psychotropic medication. It demonstrated a need for interventions for breast cancer survivors that take these cultural and linguistic differences into account.

Article: Costas-Muñiz, R., Hunter-Hernández, M., Garduño-Ortega, O., Morales-Cruz, J., & Gany, F. (2017). Ethnic differences in psychosocial service use among non-Latina white and Latina breast cancer survivors. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 1–14.

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