In this research paper, we are going to concentrate on the issue of cancer among Native Americans, upon the leading causes of, upon the attitude of people to the illness and the mortality consequences.
Historical facts show that cancer was a somewhat rare illness among Native Americans. Nowadays, cancer is considered to be a leading cause of mortality of Native American people. Sine the 1970 year the cases of breast cancer by Native American women severely increased. The survival rate of the five years with breast cancer is considered the lowest in comparison to other ethnic groups in the country.
The results of statistic show that cancer is the second cause of death of Native American women and the third cause of death of Native American men. The number of deaths because of cancer increased among Native Americans to 10 percent from 1973 till 1990, this is certainly a serious number.
At the beginning of the century, cancer was really rare among Native Americans, and there was an opinion that this was an immune illness. By the 1950s cancer was still not that acknowledged as a serious problem, but the fact was that life expectancy of American Indians was 30 years less than of white people. They didn’t live so long to be at risk. Although there were some health centers and surveys that they made, the director of education in Roswell Park stated that: “Many tribes and agencies that work with tribes don’t have an appreciation for the growing magnitude of this problem.
Through these studies, we hope to raise the level of awareness of the cancer problem in Indian country, and to try to bring their perceptions into balance with the reality.” (Burhansstipanov L, Hollow W., 23-24).
Cancer control center conducted a special research and published the results of it in Journal of Cancer Education.
The results were as follows:
- there is a list of the most important health problems native Americans are suffering from, and cancer is only on the fifth place after alcoholism, diabetes, injuries and cardiovascular illness
- according to urban directors the list was almost the same but the only difference of AIDS put on the first place.
- tribal health directors considered cancer to be the sixth health problem condition
- about 33 percent of urban health directors and about 53 percent of tribal health directors knew that the number of cancer deaths among Native Americans was increasing.
In reality, although cancer is not the leading cause of deaths there, this is still a serious health problem which needs certain steps of prevention and treatment.
Recent researches showed that cancer is the third leading cause of deaths among American Indians of all ages and the second leading cause of death among people over 45.
A really important role in cancer spreading is played by certain psychological factors and cultural beliefs of these people. There is a strong need for developing culturally acceptable resource materials for Native Americans. Older native peoples have a more respectful attitude towards traditional methods of medicine and not towards the newest Western developments and practices. Thus many issues connected with this disease are misinterpreted by them, for example, a lot of Native Americans think that a person who has cancer will die. In their families, there is a high respect for elder members of a family, and in case they are sick they are taken care of only at home.
The second important barrier is the language, there are about 217 native languages, and English is spoken only as the second language or not spoken at all. There is even no such a word as cancer in some languages. In some languages, this word is translated like “a disease without cure” or “the disease that can eat the body.” Sometimes cancer is mixed up with such diseases as epilepsy, leprosy and so on. The level of education of natives is rather low, only about 56 percent finish high school. Some native Indian cultures have the opinion that it is better not to discuss cancer if you do not want to invite it into your body.
A lot depends upon communication as well. “Whites typically communicate linearly: the speaker addresses the purpose, identifies the subject, describes the subject, and then discusses the conclusions. However, native peoples tend to use a “circular” or story-telling communication style, incorporating many stories and examples” (Hahn R., 115). For native cultures a pause plays an important role in the process of communication, it allows the initial speaker add some ideas before he gets the response of the listener. This pause is often misunderstood by non-native people, as they start to think that something was not said. In fact, the native rate of speech is much slower than by non-natives.
Poverty is an important factor for food and health conditions. Because of poverty, many people cannot use medical service or a working telephone or transportation.
Because of smoking rates, a lot of people suffer from lungs cancer. The death rates because of lung cancer are lower among Native American than among whites but higher than among other minorities. “The cigarette smoking rate among older Native Americans is consistently lower than among younger Native American adults. The cigarette smoking rate among Native Americans aged 55 and over (male and female rates combined) in 1978 was 33.4% and dropped to 10.5% in 1995, versus a drop by male and female Native American adults aged 18-54 of about 53.4% in 1978 to about 45% in 1995” (Frost F., V. Taylor, E. Fries, 12).
Death cases from breast cancer are most likely among Native American women, as they rarely get the chance go through diagnostics. Most of their women feel ashamed and cannot talk about such issues; there were even cases when because of poor understanding of English they didn’t get the appropriate treatment and died. Women, who live in a distant place, are not able to visit appointments because of lack of telephone connection and transportation.
Overall the problem of cancer is vitally important for Native Americans, as the situation is worsened by a number of unique factors concerning their cultural traditions and beliefs.
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