Language barriers negatively affect breast cancer stage

Language barriers can lead to later stage breast cancer at diagnosis, according to a study published online February 15 in the journal Cancer.

Patients for whom English is a second language may have difficulty accessing preventative care -- which means they may have late-stage disease when they do present for mammography, according to a team led by Dr. Katy Balazy of Stanford University School of Medicine.

"Health determinants are known to influence the stage of breast cancer presentation, but it is unclear to what extent language affects stage," the group wrote. "[Our] study investigates whether non-English-speaking patients present at a later stage than their English-speaking counterparts and whether language is associated with mammographic screening."

The study included 1,057 women undergoing breast radiotherapy between 2012 and 2017; of these, 904 were English speakers and 153 were not.

The researchers found that non-English-speaking patients older than 50 were twice as likely as English-speaking patients to have presented with advanced disease: 16.2% compared with 8.1%. They also found that non-English-speaking patients who did not comply with screening guidelines had a higher probability of stage III disease than their English-speaking counterparts, at 40.3% compared with 12.7%.

"Language is independently associated with later stage breast cancer for non-English-speaking patients," the group concluded. "Future interventions should seek to reduce language barriers for mammographic screening and diagnosis."

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