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Deaf people diagnosed with cancer face 'big barriers'

Coleen McSorley, who has been deaf from birth, was left upset and struggling to understand the details of her cancer diagnosis. Now one care centre is hoping to offer more support to others facing a similar challenge.

Coleen was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2020. At the time, Covid restrictions meant she was unable to bring an interpreter or her hearing parents to hospital appointments.

The 56-year-old said she was given wads of literature about her cancer - but like many people who have been deaf from birth, she struggles to read.

"English is my second language after British Sign Language," said the cleaner, from Stirling.

"At the hospital a big barrier was they were wearing too many masks. They were all talking at me but I didn't understand what they were saying, it was horrendous.

"I felt frustrated because I wanted them to pull down their masks so I could try to lip read a little bit, but they wouldn't and it was very confusing."

Coleen, who had stage three cancer, was treated with chemotherapy and had a mastectomy, found a local Maggie centre who supported her. Yvonne McIntosh, an oncology nurse and centre head at the Maggie's Forth Valley cancer care drop-in centre, says that even with an interpreter, a lot of information could be lost in translation.

"A lot of sense and meaning is lost and things can land differently so they don't come across with the same context," she said.

"When Coleen came to us she didn't know what the pills were that she was taking.

"She didn't understand about her treatment and didn't know how her medication worked for her."

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Source: BBC News, 4 February 2022


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