Advocate Radiation Oncology

Improving Communication for Cancer Patients with Hearing or Language Impairments

Advocate Radiation Oncology Doctor Makes Heart with Hands

When a patient receives a serious medical diagnosis like cancer, it can trigger a flood of questions. How does the disease progress? What may stop its spread? How should one cope with the emotions that accompany diagnosis and treatment? Most importantly, patients need to know what important healthcare decisions lie ahead.

For most, there are a variety of cancer resources available where answers may be found. These include in-person support groups, online educational videos and conversations with one’s own care team. Unfortunately, few are designed to help those with a hearing impairment or language barrier, including foreign language speakers. As a result, these individuals may struggle to navigate a healthcare system that is designed for those without communication challenges.

Studies report that patients with hearing or language impairments often have profound gaps in knowledge about their disease, medications, treatment options, procedures and risk factors. And yet, living with these unanswered questions can increase the emotional distress that often accompanies a tough diagnosis.

Additionally, studies show that patients with hearing or language impairment commonly experience persistent breakdowns in communication with their health care providers. Sadly, many find that their providers will not accommodate their requests for ASL interpretation within clinical settings. Instead, patients are expected to practice lip reading or note taking for comprehension.

This sends the message that providers don’t want to deal with them – and breaks federal law. Those with a hearing impairment are legally entitled to adequate language accommodations. This is a direct result of provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Partnership Provides Access to Communication Resources

At Advocate Radiation Oncology, we know every patient deserves equal access to healthcare communication before, during and after a cancer diagnosis. As the region’s premier locally-owned and operated radiation oncology practice, we are passionately dedicated to delivering compassionate care and ensuring that every patient’s treatment experience is customized to their needs.

In order to deliver exceptional healthcare communication for all, Advocate Radiation Oncology is proud to partner with the Sally J. Pimentel Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center (DHHC).

The DHHC’s mission is to empower Southwest Florida’s deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens and their families through education, advocacy and community involvement. The center provides a wide range of services to those with hearing impairments, including support for family members, friends, neighbors, employers and coworkers.

  • Sign Language Interpreting Services
  • Free Telephone Equipment Loan Program
  • Deaf Mentor & Education Program
  • (ASL) American Sign Language Classes
  • Information/Referral Services
  • Outreach Presentations
  • Employment Assistance
  • Visual Communication Center
  • Advocacy
  • Adaptive Equipment Sales & Training

Through this partnership, DHHC and Advocate Radiation Oncology are closing the gap for patients with hearing or language impairment by reducing healthcare inequalities.

By connecting patients with the appropriate language assistance and accommodations, our provider-patient conversation can take place with clarity, comprehension and compassion. In this way, Advocate can ensure that the treatment experience is delivered with equal care for all patients.

About the Author
Graciela Garton

Dr. Graciela Garton is a board-certified radiation oncologist at Advocate Radiation Oncology.