Communication challenges experienced by migrants with cancer: A comparison of migrant and English-speaking Australian-born cancer patients

Amelia Hyatt, Ruby Lipson-Smith, Penelope Schofield, Karla Gough, Ming Sze, Lynley Aldridge, David Goldstein, Michael Jefford, Melanie L. Bell, Phyllis Butow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objectives: Understanding the difficulties faced by different migrant groups is vital to address disparities and inform targeted health-care service delivery. Migrant oncology patients experience increased morbidity, mortality and psychological distress, with this tentatively linked to language and communication difficulties. The objective of this exploratory study was to investigate the communication barriers and challenges experienced by Arabic, Greek and Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) speaking oncology patients in Australia. Methods: This study employed a cross-sectional design using patient-reported outcome survey data from migrant and English-speaking Australian-born patients with cancer. Patients were recruited through oncology clinics and Australian state cancer registries. Data were collected regarding patient clinical and demographic characteristics and health-care and communication experiences. Data from the clinics and registries were combined for analysis. Results: Significant differences were found between migrant groups in demographic characteristics, communication and health-care experiences, and information and care preferences. Chinese patients cited problems with understanding medical information, the Australian health-care system, and communicating with their health-care team. Conversely, Arabic- and Greek-speaking patients reported higher understanding of the health-care system, and less communication difficulties. Conclusions: Our study findings suggest that migrant groups differ from each other in their health communication expectations and requirements. Lower education and health literacy of some groups may play a role in poorer health outcomes. Public health interventions and assistance provided to migrants should be tailored to the specific needs and characteristics of that language or cultural group. Future research directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)886-895
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • cancer
  • communication
  • health literacy
  • healthcare
  • migrant
  • oncology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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