NYHQ launches Chinese breast cancer support group

By Alex Robinson

New York Hospital Queens is inviting Chinese cancer patients and survivors to join its Pink Ribbon Club.

The Flushing Hospital, at 56-45 Main St., is launching a new Chinese breast cancer support group to aid those struggling with the affliction who have not been able to access help they desperately need because of linguistic barriers.

“Right now they have a lot of Chinese patients and a lot of young women who need more than just medical care,” said Dr. Ming-der Chang, who is facilitating the group and is the senior director of the hospital’s Community Health Initiatives. “They need peer support and also counseling in their own language.”

More than 40 percent of breast cancer patients being treated at NYHQ speak Chinese, which is the second most spoken language at the hospital. Chinese people make up 30 percent of NYHQ’s total population.

The support group is part of NYHQ’s new Culturally-Sensitive Community Health Initiatives Program to increase the accessibility of the hospital’s services to new immigrants.

“It’s very important to connect cancer patients with recovered ones,” Chang said. “Seeing patients who went through similar treatment being healthy and happy is great for them to see. It will ease their anxiety.”

Chang, who is running the program with the hospital’s Community Health Initiatives patient navigator manager, Jessy Lau, said cancer is often taboo in the Chinese community, which creates an enormous need for this type of group.

“It is hard for them to stand up and say they’re cancer survivors, but with this group they’ll be able to connect with each other,” Chang said. “Through the education and peer support, they’ll be able to transfer their experience to be able to empower themselves and other people.”

The idea for the program came from a support group Chang and Lau used to run for Chinese speakers when they worked at the American Cancer Society.

In addition to serving as a peer-to-peer support group, the program will seek to educate attendees about the malady and American health care through talks with survivors and cancer doctors.

The public meetings will be held on the third Friday of every month, starting in November, at NYHQ’s breast cancer center at 4 p.m. The group’s first event in October will be invitation-only, but NYHQ urged all patients, cancer survivors and community members to join the following meetings. The first open meeting will be Nov. 21.

Chang said around 10 people will probably show up to the first few meetings, but she expects its ranks will grow fast to include dozens of patients and survivors.

Chang and Lau urged any second generation children of Chinese cancer patients or survivors who need help but do not speak English fluently to join the support group.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobi‌nson@‌cnglo‌cal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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