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Ethnic minority women too shy to talk to GP about cancer

Women from ethnic minorities are more likely than white women to be embarrassed to tell their GP about cancer symptoms

Women from ethnic minorities are more likely than white women to be embarrassed to tell their GP about cancer symptoms

Picture shows a young woman wearing a hijab looking worried. A study shows women from ethnic minority backgrounds living in England are more likely to be embarrassed to go to their GP with potential cancer symptoms than white women
Picture: iStock

Women from ethnic minority backgrounds living in England are more likely to be embarrassed to go to their GP with potential cancer symptoms than white women, a study suggests.

Being afraid of what the symptoms could mean and finding it hard to understand what the GP is saying are also potential barriers to treatment, according to the study, funded by Cancer Research UK.

The charity’s head of health and patient information Julie Sharp said: ‘Making sure ethnic minority women are aware of things that can be done to make a doctor’s appointment easier, such as the use of translation services, will hopefully give them the confidence to speak openly to their GP about any concerns.’

Between 75% and 91% of ethnic minority women were too embarrassed to talk to their family doctor about the issue, compared with just 8% of white women, the study found.

Researchers at the University of Surrey and King’s College London surveyed 720 women aged 30 to 60 from six different ethnic groups in England – white, Caribbean, African, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi.

Fatalistic beliefs were more common among ethnic minority women

They wanted to understand why certain women might delay seeking medical help, and asked participants how strongly they agreed with 11 statements designed to assess potential barriers.

The study, published in Psycho-Oncology found white women reported three barriers on average, whereas women from ethnic minority backgrounds reported about six.

Fatalistic beliefs were more common among ethnic minority women, with strong fatalism associated with reduced body awareness.

Some 30% of the women, except those from Bangladesh, said they would pray about a symptom, compared with 10% of white women. African, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women were also more likely to say they might use traditional remedies.

It was unclear if they would pray or use traditional remedies instead of or as well as going to their GP.

Ethnic minority women who moved to the UK as adults were 40% less likely to worry about wasting a GP’s time than those born in the UK.


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