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Patient reported symptom burden amongst immigrant and Canadian long-term resident women undergoing breast cancer surgery


Purpose — Immigrants are susceptible to marginalization due to social isolation, economic disadvantage and systemic bias. Our goal was to compare symptom burden between immigrant and long-term resident women undergoing breast cancer surgery in Ontario, Canada.

Methods — A population-level retrospective cohort-study using administrative databases was conducted. Women who underwent surgery for newly diagnosed breast cancer and were treated at regional cancer centers between 2010 and 2016 were included. The primary outcome was a moderate or severe (≥ 4) symptom score on the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System Scale (ESAS).

Results — There were 12,250 (87.2%) long-term Canadian residents and 1,806(12.8%) immigrants. Immigrants were younger (mean age 53 vs. 61 years); had a higher proportion residing in a lowest income quintile neighbourhood (22.2% vs 15.4%); were less often on a primary-care physician roster (83.7% vs. 90.4%); and were less often diagnosed with Stage I/II disease (80.9% vs. 84.6%) (all p < 0.01). The proportion of women with scores ≥ 4 was significantly higher amongst immigrant women for 7/9 symptom categories; with the largest differences for depression (24.9% vs. 20.2%, p < 0.01) and pain (28.0% vs. 22.4%, p < 0.01). On multivariable regression analysis, immigration status was associated with scores ≥ 4 for pain (OR 1.13, 95% CI 1.02–1.23). There was an association between moderate/severe pain and region of origin, but not length of stay in Canada or immigration class.

Conclusions — This is the first study comparing symptom burden amongst immigrant and non-immigrant women with breast cancer at a population-level. Immigrant women with breast cancer undergoing surgery were found to have a higher burden of pain.



Parvez E, Chu M, Kirkwood D, Doumouras A, Levine M, Bogach J. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2023; Apr 21 [Epub ahead of print].

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