Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

92P Different Perspectives On Health Behaviors and Lifestyle Changes After Breast Cancer Treatment: : A Qualitative Comparison of Chinese-, Korean-, and Mexican-American Survivors

Saturday, January 14, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Jung-Won Lim, PhD, Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Background: The increase in breast cancer survival rates may be attributed to healthy lifestyles and behaviors following cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, it is still unclear how breast cancer survivors (BCS) decide which behaviors to change and what factors influence positive or negative changes in health behaviors or lifestyle. The purpose of this study was to explore the health behaviors and lifestyle changes that Chinese-, Korean-, and Mexican-American women adopt after a breast cancer diagnosis, and to describe the facilitators and barriers that influence their health behavior and lifestyle changes. We further explored perceptions regarding the impact of health behavior and lifestyle changes on health.

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.