Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Asian American women, and the number of Asian American breast cancer survivors is rapidly increasing. Although Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing and most heterogeneous ethnic groups in the United States, limited data exist in regard to their breast cancer experience and survivorship.
A systematic review of the breast cancer experience literature was conducted and included studies of Asian Americans or their subgroups as a major category of study participants. Of the 125 studies reviewed, 10 qualitative studies, 10 quantitative studies, 5 studies that used a mixed-method approach, and 1 intervention study met the criteria for inclusion.
Qualitatively, Asian Americans reported unmet physical and emotional needs and challenges during survivorship. Quantitative studies consistently found that socioeconomic status, cultural health beliefs, immigration stress, acculturation level, English proficiency, social support, and spirituality influence Asian American breast cancer patients’ health behaviors and health-related quality of life (HRQOL). Studies also revealed significant variation in breast cancer reaction and HRQOL within Asian American subgroups.
Although research on Asian American breast cancer experience and survivorship is sparse, we concluded that Asian Americans experience disrupted HRQOL following breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, interwoven with their cultural and socio-ecological system, and that programs focused on improving cancer survivorship outcomes among this ethnic minority group are limited. Most studies have concentrated on the West coast population, and there is significant underrepresentation of longitudinal and intervention studies. Implications for study design, measurement, and future research areas are also included.
Implications for Cancer Survivors
The results highlight a need to understand ethnic differences and to take into account social, cultural, and linguistic factors in breast cancer survivorship experiences among Asian American subgroups as a means to develop culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate interventions designed to improve HRQOL.