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Partners in Care

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Good communication is key to bridging cultural gaps, said Gloria Edwards, director of Multicultural Health at the University of Michigan. Here are some issues you may need to discuss with your health-care providers.

  • Traditional Remedies:
    It's important to talk with your health-care team if you have taken any herbs, supplements or other forms of traditional remedies. Because of the complex nature of cancer care, some of these remedies may interfere with treatment.
  • Dietary Restraints:
    Maintaining good nutrition is necessary to help your body manage the effects of cancer treatment. Talk to your health-care team if you have special dietary restrictions.
  • Modesty Requirements:
    Let your health-care team know if you have special concerns about modesty. Although the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center will not always be able to place patients with practitioners of the same gender, the staff will work with you to try to accommodate your needs as much as possible.
  • Holidays:
    If you have a special holiday coming up, let your health-care team know. It may be possible to schedule treatments around important dates.
  • Communication Preferences:
    Every culture has different taboos. For some, it''s uncomfortable when health-care providers talk to adult children about their parents' care. Other families try to shield patients from stress by excluding them from difficult conversations. It's important for every patient to play an active role in letting your health-care team know what's right for you.
  • Reconciling Beliefs:
    For some, like Darrin Patterson, cancer treatment may cause patients to reframe long-held beliefs. Consider talking to a member of your clergy. The Cancer Center also offers free counseling through its PsychOncology Clinic and the U-M Spiritual Care Department.

Learn more about bridging cultural gaps in cancer care:

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Thrive Issue: 
Spring, 2010