Adena Scheer, MD

Adena Scheer, MD

Department of Surgery, St Michael’s Hospital, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, and the University of Toronto

Cross-cultural communications in breast cancer treatment

Adena Scheer at St Michael's Hospital
Dr Adena Scheer (Photo: St Michael’s Hospital)

Among minorities, disparities in breast cancer treatments have been demonstrated across the developed world and have been associated with worse cancer outcomes. In Canada we have the highest rate of foreign-born individuals among the G7 countries, with two of the largest groups immigrating from South Asia and the Philippines. Cross-cultural communication is therefore a major health issue.

Adena Scheer, MD
Adena Scheer, MD, recipient of a 2017 Banting Research Foundation Discovery Award

Breast cancer is a delicate diagnosis that involves examination of a private area of the body strongly associated with a woman’s sexuality and image. There are multiple surgical treatment options to discuss, many of which are preference-based decisions. Communication and developing trust can be challenging even when patient and surgeon share cultural backgrounds. Cultural and language barriers in the clinical encounter have been shown to negatively affect communication and trust, leading to poorer health outcomes.

In this project, Dr Scheer and her team will conduct in-depth interviews to understand the complex socio-cultural context of breast cancer treatment from both the patients’ and health care practitioners’ perspectives. The aim of this project is to develop decision-support tools culturally tailored specifically for South Asian and Filipina immigrants diagnosed with breast cancer in order to reduce communication-related health inequities.