What effects do cultural identity, including beliefs about gender norms, spirituality, and perceived body image, have on breast cancer survivorship? How does identifying as an American with an ethnic background impact health outcomes?
These are the questions Dr. Elise Radina and her team at Miami University in Ohio explore in their ongoing research study on the effects of spirituality and cultural factors of survivorship for women of Indian and Korean descent. When Dr. Radina contacted Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research about promoting this study, we didn’t hesitate to say “Yes!” because we recognize that diversity is absolutely imperative to research progress. The Foundation is committed to research that is as inclusive and diverse as the people that breast cancer affects. Join our flagship program, the Love Research Army, to ensure that more studies like this can be done!
We interviewed Dr. Radina to learn more about her exciting study that takes a deeper look at the experiences of diverse women who were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Q: What initially prompted you to pursue a study about the experiences of women who are culturally different from you?
Dr. Radina: I have always been curious about cultures that are different from my own. As a high school student, I had the opportunity to travel outside the U.S. for the first time and spend a month in Spain learning Spanish while living with a host family. In college, I majored in International Women’s Studies, and, even throughout graduate school, I remained drawn to courses that helped me understand others and took coursework that focused on topics such as racial/ethnic identity development and multicultural families.
Years later, while serving in my current position as a faculty member at Miami University, I traveled to Christ University in India to explore possible study abroad and faculty collaboration options. I was able to connect with faculty members there and began some preliminary work with them. I remained in touch with those colleagues over the last several years and subsequently became connected with Dr. Anuradha Sathiyaseelan, who began a collaboration to explore the breast cancer survivorship experiences of women in India and women of Indian origin in the U.S.
After the study launched, a colleague of mine at Miami University, Dr. En-jung Shon, joined the research team with the aim of engaging in collaborative work and training to work with undergraduate students as research team members. Dr. En-jung Shon’s recent return to her home country of South Korea has allowed the project to expand to include a second Asian ethnic group.
Q: Why do you think this topic is relevant to the breast cancer community?
Dr. Radina: As the rates of survival after treatment for early-stage breast cancer patients have been steadily increasing over time, increased attention needs to be paid to the lived experiences of survivors. Historically, marginalized racial and ethnic groups were either left out of research or were exploited due to unethical research practices, which has created challenges and gaps in terms of applicability. As a result, people of color are often underserved or not served in ways that centralize their lived experiences. Our aim is to explore the experiences of women of Indian origin and Korean origin living in the U.S., who are influenced by American cultural norms and compare their results to the counterparts who live in India and Korea, respectively.
Q: Why is research on diverse populations important and how will the findings of this study impact people who are diagnosed with breast cancer?
Dr. Radina: When it comes to providing health care services and sources of support to those diagnosed with breast cancer, a white-centric approach is often used. The problem with that approach is that it ignores the nuances of how different racial and ethnic groups experience the world with regard to family roles, spiritual beliefs, and worldview. Our study’s findings will have the potential to inform culturally appropriate interventions aimed to support a diversity of breast cancer survivors in the United States, India, and South Korea, which could include enhancing the training given to health care providers who work with survivors around the challenges that diverse women may experience, or creating new resources that are reflective of culturally specific or unique experiences of breast cancer survivors to normalize their experiences and help them cope.
For readers who are interested in participating in this study, please go to the following website to sign up: https://bit.ly/BCSurvivorshipStudy
To join the Love Research Army click here.
Dr. Radina is a qualitative researcher, professor, and Chair of the Department of Family Science and Social Work at Miami University who explores various aspects of family life with regard to health and illness.