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The social difficulties of cancer patients of South Asian Indian and Pakistani origin: a cross-sectional questionnaire and interview study


Objectives To evaluate, in a sample of patients of South Asian (SA) origin, the acceptability of introducing assessment of social difficulties in everyday practice, examine the range and severity of reported social difficulties and inquire about their management.

Design A cross-sectional study in which participants completed the Social Difficulties Inventory (SDI-21) in English, Urdu, Punjabi or Hindi followed by a semi-structured interview.

Participants Participants comprised 26 men and 29 women of SA origin ranging between 18 and 80 years of age. The commonest primary languages were Urdu (n=17) and Punjabi (n=17). English was the primary language of three participants. A range of cancer diagnoses and stages of disease were represented.

Setting Patients were recruited from outpatient haematology and oncology clinics in Bradford, Airedale and Leeds hospitals.

Results SA cancer patients welcomed routine assessment of social difficulties as part of their cancer care. They reported higher levels of social distress than found in earlier studies of white British patients. The majority managed their social difficulties themselves with little discussion with the clinical team, although, at times, this would have been welcomed. SA patients lacked information and were unaware of the support available to them, especially when language was a barrier.

Conclusions Introduction of routine assessment of social difficulties into cancer care will require not only relevant and accessible screening tools such as the SDI-21, but also staff trained to respond to the difficulties disclosed, with knowledge of information sources and supportive care services when patients request these.

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