Methods: An exploratory, descriptive, qualitative study was undertaken among Chinese-, Korean-, and Mexican-Americans using focus groups. Participants were eligible for this study if they were diagnosed with breast cancer and survived for 1 to 5 years after diagnosis (cancer stage 0-III). Potential participants were recruited from community- and hospital-based support groups and hospital cancer registries in Los Angeles, CA. Discussions were tape-recorded, transcribed and translated for content analysis of common themes and patterns, based on inductive approaches.
Results: A total of 6 focus groups for Chinese- (n=21), Korean- (n=11), and Mexican-American (n=10) BCS were conducted. Participant ages ranged from 38 to 83 years, with a mean age of 53 (SD=9). Overall, all three ethnic groups did not show significant differences in most demographic and medical information. For health behaviors and lifestyle practices, seven main themes were identified: 1) eating habits, 2) physical activity, 3) alternative medicine, 4) sleeping, 5) social activity, 6) weight control, and 7) drinking. All but the drinking category was mentioned in all focus group interviews regardless of ethnicity. However, ethnic and cultural differences were observed in some subthemes of health behavior patterns including amount of eating, lack of alternative medicine use, and need of cancer support groups. Family, financial concerns, environment, and religious faith were commonly mentioned as a facilitator and/or a barrier to health behavior and lifestyle changes. Additionally, one theme ‘myself as a barrier' was observed from Korean- and Mexican-American women only. Participants also discussed the impact of health behavior and lifestyle changes on health after their breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Overall, two themes emerged: 1) positive effects of lifestyle changes and 2) changes in thoughts and attitudes. However, the common theme that emerged from three ethnic groups was ‘positive changes in personality', which is a subtheme of ‘changes in thoughts and attitudes'.
Conclusions and Implications: Overall, BCS' cancer experiences seem to positively influence changing their thoughts and attitudes. The current study provided culturally and ethnically tailored practical knowledge about health behavior and lifestyle changes among Chinese-, Korean-, and Mexican-American BCS. Knowledge of ethnic differences in health behavior and lifestyle practices is important for developing culturally and ethnically tailored behavioral intervention programs, which ultimately improve BCS' quality of life outcomes and reduce health disparities.