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Researchers tackle breast cancer in South Asian women

When breast cancer is detected in young South Asian women, increasingly the disease is in a more advanced stage compared to other groups.

Researchers at Rutgers University School of Public Health have noted this trend is more alarming given that South Asians are underrepresented in breast cancer research. They hope to counter this by expanding the number of South Asian women participating in breast cancer studies.

Jaya Satagopan recently studied the best way to recruit participants from this underrepresented community for these projects.

The study published in PLOS ONE found that radio and other broadcast outlets from those communities, seems to work the best.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study on recruiting South Asian American women through community partnerships during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Satagopan said.

This finding is especially important given that a past study has found there’s a stigma in the South Asian community against acknowledging one has the disease.

“It was something that was never talked about in India when they were growing up,” said 29-year-old Anu Gupta of San Jose, California who recently was diagnosed.  “There is this stigma in the South Asian community: What will society say if my daughter or mother has a breast cancer diagnosis?”

Stanford researchers found this stigma can delay treatment.

“Because of stigma, the individual may feel isolated because it’s not easy to share this as a diagnosis,” said clinical psychologist Ranak Trivedi. “There are many myths about breast cancer — that it is contagious or that a woman must be deserving of this disease. Girls may not be marriageable if a family member has had cancer. Even when women know they have something horribly wrong, they don’t seek care because they don’t want to bare their breasts to doctors.”

Radio targeting the South Asian community became an increasingly trusted source of information during the pandemic, Satagopan at Rutgers found. Support from men in the family can also help.

“Our study can inform strategies for recruiting understudied populations to research studies even beyond the pandemic,” Satagopan said.

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