During my first few months as editor of the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology (JPO), I have received manuscripts from a variety of countries around the world. This is likely a reflection of the increasing incidence in cancer and cancer deaths across nations. Currently, one in seven deaths worldwide is due to cancer—more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined (American Cancer Society, 2015). In particular, there has been an increase in developing countries: 5.3 million cancer deaths compared to 2.9 million in developed countries. While about 80% of the world's population lives in developing countries, most of the published research in psychosocial oncology occurs in economically developed countries. How applicable and relevant is our research to the majority of people in the world?
Recently, the International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS) proposed an International Standard of Quality Cancer Care that would promote efforts to improve psychosocial cancer care. The Standard states:
“Psychosocial cancer care should be recognised as a universal human right;
Quality cancer care must integrate the psychosocial domain into routine care;
Distress should be measured as the 6th Vital Sign after temperature, blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate and pain.” (IPOS, 2015)
This is an ambitious proposal from IPOS, but given the growing rate of cancer worldwide, it is a critical one. However, to make a difference in psychosocial cancer care in low-resource countries where the needs appear to be the greatest, we must generate new knowledge and innovative, evidence-informed practices that will address diverse psycho-social-spiritual needs.
Despite the many manuscripts that are submitted to JPO from researchers around the world, reviewers and readers from Western countries do not always see the relevance of articles from non-Western countries. Sadly, ethnocentric perspectives at times encourage us to hold a Westernized view of a gold standard of psychosocial cancer care that must be applicable to all cultures. Maintaining a narrow or ethnocentric view can blind us to the realities experienced by cancer patients within any one country comprised of a diverse multi-racial, multi-ethnic, or multi-cultural population. One of the challenges for the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology is to maintain scientific rigor for our published articles while being relevant to practitioners who work in many different settings and cultures. Here are a few suggestions:
First, as consumers and contributors to the journal, we need to adopt an attitude of cultural humility by looking at cultural differences with respect and an open mind. Then we can expand our understanding so that we can learn of the human condition and apply those lessons learned to our own work.
Second, as authors, we shouldn't assume that readers intimately know the cultural context of our research and study participants. People are more than their race, ethnicity, or nationality—culture is multi-faceted, reflecting individuals’ beliefs, customs, traditions, and social institutions, among other factors. While it is impossible to know all of the nuances of a different culture, providing information on the cultural context will assist us in understanding empirical findings and better attune us to the cultures of persons and families affected by cancer.
Finally, the publisher of the JPO, Taylor & Francis, offers translation services for authors submitting manuscripts in Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, or Japanese. There is a fee involved and more information can be found on their translating services website (http://www.tandfeditingservices.com/en/services/editing/).
- American Cancer Society. (2015). Global cancer: Facts & figures (3rd Edition). Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/research/cancerfactsstatistics/cancerfactsfigures2015/index [Google Scholar]
- International Psycho-Oncology Society. (2015). International standard of quality cancer care. Retrieved from http://www.ipos-society.org/about-ipos/ipos-standard-of-quality-cancer-care/ [Google Scholar]