ULG's Language Services Blog

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Overcoming Language Barriers to Improve Cancer Care

With October being National Breast Cancer Awareness month, it is important to recognize the importance of preventative care in reducing readmissions hospitalizations. Further, with the context of today, it has become a necessity for healthcare systems to emphasize preventative care through in-language services. This is especially true for preventative care around the most common cancer amongst women: Breast Cancer.

Preventative care can be unique and confusing depending on the specific care required. There are a wide variety of risk factors that highlight the importance of preventative care to identify potential symptoms and seeking adequate treatment. However, the ability to receive adequate preventative care can be hindered by the inability of providers to convey accurate information and engage with their hardest to reach patients. In the United States, breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst Hispanic/Latina women, yet they have low numbers of screenings and follow-up care. One major reason for this is the language barriers they face.

Breast Cancer in the Hispanic/Latina Community

When individuals with Limited English Proficiencies (LEP) seek information regarding preventative care for breast cancer, the combination of confusing terminology, low awareness, and distrust can persuade patients to delay getting screened. According to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, seven in ten cases of breast cancer are diagnosed among women 55 and older. This poses an extremely high risk if not treated in its early stages. It is recommended by service providers to begin breast cancer screenings for women aged 40 and up. Further, the mortality rates are significantly higher among women in minorities than not due to differences in diagnoses, genetics, as well as disparities in access to screening, follow-up care, and treatment. In 2018, the leading cause of cancer-related mortality amongst Hispanic/Latina women was breast cancer, making up 16% of all cancer deaths for women. With the inability of service providers to provide adequate language services to LEP patients, their access to early preventative care becomes severely limited and can enflame an often difficult to face reality.

Steps to Provide Adequate Breast Cancer Prevention and Care for Your LEP Community

Ensuring that providers and organizations incorporate in-language information helps to make preventative care towards breast cancer more accessible and efficient to the LEP community.

Here are 6 ways that organizations can provide equitable experiences and awareness throughout the month and moving forward.

1. Ensure that your Online Platform Resources are In Language

Prior to a member or patient scheduling an appointment, they often prospect potential providers. This search is normally done online. Certain organizations opt for verbatim translation systems, however, as stated above, the lack of language services can bring about inaccuracy, leading to misunderstanding and fear. The application of quality machine translation (MT) can drastically improve patients’ ability to access online resources.

2. Provide a Direct Line for Inbound Call in Language

The ability to provide a first touch experience in a patient’s native language demonstrates the necessary trust to communicate effectively with LEP patients. A personalized phone number that connects directly to an interpreter, also known as a Direct Connect, will build trust and encourage patients to come back to your organization and stay with your organization through the breast cancer screening and/or treatment journey.

3. Include Translation and Localization in The Appointment Setting Process

Regardless of demographics, many patients prefer an efficient online experience when scheduling appointments. The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the need for utilizing online resources when making appointments. This also goes for scheduling preventative care appointments, like breast screenings. If your organization has had to implement online appointment scheduling, then you can enhance your current outreach to LEP communities by offering the service in language.

4. Translate and Localize Your Patient's Online Portal

To increase patient participation and ease of access, it is crucial to make the patient’s portal in language. This accessibility will allow patients to have an adequate understanding when reviewing appointments, documents, and accessing health records. Access to one place for patient education and after-visit summaries will increase health literacy and health outcomes.

5. Provide a Medically Qualified Interpreter During the Appointment

Although bilingual staff may be a more cost-effective option, there are essential language nuances that are usually misinterpreted. The inability to communicate effectively continues the cycle of poor health outcomes for LEP communities. Providing an interpreter, whether over-the-phone (OPI), through video (VRI), or on-site helps ensure effective communication and facilitation for in-language breast cancer screenings.

6. Have One Interpreter for Continuous Outbound Follow-up Calls

When you need to make multiple calls for a specific language, keep your interpreter on the line for each call. ULG’s Community Connect program promotes efficiency in conducting patient experience surveys or following up to confirm appointments. The program creates compassionate communication for patients following preventative care, which is vital when discussing a topic like breast cancer.

By offering in-language solutions for breast cancer screenings, organizations can provide adequate resources for preventative care and follow-up appointments to LEP communities. The aid of medically qualified interpreters drastically improves the facilitation of conversations, retention of LEP patients, overall health equity, and engagement with your hardest-to-reach populations. Need assistance scheduling preventative care appointments in language this season? Get in touch with ULG’s healthcare language experts today!