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Breast screening awareness low amongst Chinese women in NZ

Breast screening awareness low amongst Chinese women in NZ

Chinese women in New Zealand have low levels of awareness about the national breast screening programme and limited engagement with preventative primary care services, according to research published in the June edition of the Journal of Primary Health Care.

The study is one of the first attempts to identify factors affecting the understanding of, and access to, breast screening and breast cancer services by Chinese women. Breast cancer is the most prevalent female cancer in New Zealand and currently accounts for more than a quarter of all cancer diagnoses in women, and although Asian women in New Zealand have a lower rate of breast cancer registrations than the New Zealand population as a whole, they also have a lower uptake of mammography screening at 57 percent versus 69 percent.

The study found that while primary care providers are obvious sources of information about breast screening, not all migrant women are registered with a GP, and the preventive role of primary care providers is not well recognised.

Communication was repeatedly raised as the key issue when seeing a doctor in New Zealand, as was a limited understanding about Chinese perceptions of ill health and traditional Chinese medicine by New Zealand health professionals. A Chinese-speaking GP was preferred by most participants if available, not just for the language, but also for a ‘shared philosophy’ in relation to health.

The research has found that addressing communication barriers for Chinese migrant women has the potential to raise awareness about breast cancer and breast health, and to increase successful participation in breast cancer screening. The study recommends that health professionals working in primary and secondary care services make greater use of Chinese-language resources to assist migrant Chinese women to engage with and understand the role of primary care providers. The study also calls for a better understanding about Chinese perceptions of ill-heath, including complementary use of traditional Chinese medicine.

The research paper, called ‘Breast cancer and breast screening: perceptions of Chinese migrant women living in New Zealand’, has been published in the June issue of the Journal of Primary Health Care, which is on the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners’ website at:


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