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Studies identified barriers of pain reporting and use of analgesics impeding Chinese cancer patients to achieve optimal pain relief. No research has yet explored these issues in Chinese migrants, where cultural differences may exacerbate the barriers.
To explore cultural factors influencing Chinese migrants’ perspectives to cancer pain and its pharmacological management.
Informed by Leininger's Cultural Care Theory, focus groups and a short version of Barrier Questionnaire-Taiwan (S-BQT) were conducted in Mandarin or Cantonese, with 24 Chinese migrants receiving ambulatory cancer and/or palliative care services in Sydney, Australia. Integrated thematic analysis, descriptive statistics, and meta-inference were adopted for data analysis and integration.
Participants suffered uncontrolled cancer pain negatively affecting their physical and psychosocial well-being. Most experienced moderate to severe pain, but only a third used opioids. Most adopted non-pharmacological approaches and half used Traditional Chinese Medicine. Participants scored a mean S-BQT of 3.28 (standard deviation ± 0.89). Three themes and seven sub-themes contributed to higher barriers of pharmacological pain management: (1) Philosophical health beliefs (cancer pain are self-provoked and body can self-heal); (2) Cultural values and beliefs (cancer pain is inevitable, and Chinese people express pain differently to local people); and (3) Conflicting views on the use of opioids (culture-related negative medication beliefs, Western biomedical model-related opioid fears, and opioids extend life for people with terminal cancer pain).
Chinese migrants’ responses to cancer pain and attitudes towards opioids are complex. Culturally congruent strategies are needed to overcome culture-related barriers and improve quality of cancer pain care in this population.
More than half of all cancer patients experience unrelieved pain. Culture can significantly affect patients’ cancer pain-related beliefs and behaviors. Little is known about cultural impact on Chinese cancer patients’ pain management. The objective of this review was to describe pain management experiences of cancer patients from Chinese backgrounds and to identify barriers affecting their pain management.
A systematic review was conducted adhering to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Studies were included if they reported pain management experiences of adult cancer patients from Chinese backgrounds. Five databases were searched for peer-reviewed articles published in English or Chinese journals between1990 and 2015. The quality of included studies was assessed using Joanna Briggs Institution's appraisal tools.
Of 3,904 identified records, 23 articles met criteria and provided primary data from 6,110 patients. Suboptimal analgesic use, delays in receiving treatment, reluctance to report pain, and/or poor adherence to prescribed analgesics contributed to the patients’ inadequate pain control. Patient-related barriers included fatalism, desire to be good, low pain control belief, pain endurance beliefs, and negative effect beliefs. Patients and family shared barriers about fear of addiction and concerns on analgesic side effects and disease progression. Health professional–related barriers were poor communication, ineffective management of pain, and analgesic side effects. Healthcare system–related barriers included limited access to analgesics and/or after hour pain services and lack of health insurance.
Significance of results
Chinese cancer patients’ misconceptions regarding pain and analgesics may present as the main barriers to optimal pain relief. Findings of this review may inform health interventions to improve cancer pain management outcomes for patients from Chinese backgrounds. Future studies on patients’ nonpharmacology intervention-related experiences are required to inform multidisciplinary and biopsychosocial approaches for culturally appropriate pain management.
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