Patients from minority ethnic groups and cancer experts are working to increase the uptake of genetic testing in communities where language is a barrier.
Genetic testing in ovarian cancer patients is part of the toolbox that clinicians draw on to support decisions about which treatment will work best for a patient’s cancer. The technique can also identify whether or not a patient was born with a high chance of developing cancer, helping them to take steps to reduce their chance of getting cancer again, and to share the information with family members if they wish.
But there is a lower uptake of genetic testing for ovarian cancer in communities where there are language barriers and a lack of awareness of inherited cancer risks. Cultural attitudes and absence of support for non-English-speaking women can also contribute to the disparities in testing, as Dr Elaine Leung explains:
Dr Elaine Leung
Dr Elaine Leung
“Women who do not speak English as their first language often don’t have as much information about genetic testing. It’s really important to look at this because in the context of cancer that really changes survival of patients.”
Leung, from the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, co-leads an award-winning project to improve rates of genetic testing with Dr Gabriel Funingana and Professor James Brenton from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Cambridge Centre and based in the CRUK Cambridge Institute.
The project is called DEMO (for Demonstration of Improvement for Molecular Ovarian Cancer Testing) and was funded by Ovarian Cancer Action as part of its groundbreaking programme to tackle health inequalities for women with ovarian cancer.
The DEMO team knew that 15% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Birmingham are non-white and a significant proportion of these women require interpreting services, particularly among speakers of South Asian languages such as Punjabi, Urdu and Bengali.
The knock-on effects of language barriers can be profound, says Dr Marie-Lyne Alcaraz, a Programme Manager for CRUK Cambridge Centre: