Ethnic minority women face more barriers seeing their GP

New research funded by Cancer Research UK has revealed that women from ethnic minority backgrounds report around twice as many barriers than white women when seeking help for potential cancer symptoms.

The study found that women from ethnic minority backgrounds in England were more likely to feel too embarrassed to talk to a GP (75 - 91 per cent) than white women (eight per cent). Being too scared that a symptom was a sign of something serious was also more likely to be a potential barrier for ethnic minority groups.

Published in Psycho-Oncology, the research of 720 women from six different ethnic groups in England also showed that those with a poor understanding of what the GP says were around three times less likely to feel confident to talk in a consultation.

Fatalism was also deemed higher among ethnic minority women compared with white women, and having a strong fatalistic belief was associated with reduced body awareness. This could mean that some women may be less likely to get to know their bodies.  

Across the groups, approximately 30 per cent of ethnic minority women (except Bangladeshi) said they would pray about a symptom compared with 10 per cent of white women, but it is not known whether they would pray instead of going to the doctor or pray alongside going to the doctor.

Katriina Whitaker, from the University of Surrey, said: “We found that women from different ethnic backgrounds experienced different barriers to seeking help. Often studies aren’t fully representative of the population, so including people from different ethnic backgrounds in research is an important step in identifying how to reduce inequalities.

“By addressing the barriers present in different communities, we have an opportunity to implement changes that can make everyone feel able to access healthcare. Only then will everyone have the best chance of surviving their cancer.”

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