Cultural barriers factor in Hmong cancer issue

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MADISON (WPR) Wisconsin has the third largest Hmong population in the U.S. after California and Minnesota. Nationally, Hmong have higher rates of certain cancer and UW-Madison researchers are working with community leaders to change that.

The Hmong don't have a word for cancer, a disease many of them aren't aware they have until they feel ill. X-rays and other screening methods aren't part of traditional medicine. Brochures talking about cancer prevention are available in multiple languages, but that may not help says Viluck Kue, director of the Wisconsin United Coalition of Mutual Assistance Association , a group for southeast Asians.

Kue explains that many elders don’t speak or read much English, if any at all.

Western medicine is a last resort to many Hmong, who instead may rely on herbal treatments even if they have advanced cancer. With gastric and cervical cancer rates four times higher for the Hmong than whites, there's an effort to figure out how to best convey prevention information.

Tracy Schroepfer, an assistant professor of social work at UW-Madison has tried to assess how ready Wisconsin’s Hmong community is to address cancer, namely how open they are to acknowledging and discussing it.

Schroepfer says many Hmong are scared of chemotherapy and radiation and wary of young doctors (often found at teaching hospitals.) The hope is that more knowledge --provided through community leaders the Hmong trust-- could reduce the fear of cancer and help prevent it.

Information from Wisconsin Public Radio,


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