Exploring interpreter experiences and challenges in oncology consultations


In the first phase of our CALD research where we spoke to cancer patients from Chinese, Arabic and Greek speaking backgrounds, one of the main issues which emerged was a frequent mismatch between patients’ expectations of the interpreter and their experiences throughout their cancer journey. Additionally, in reviewing the audio-tapes of cancer patients from CALD backgrounds and oncologists discussing poor prognosis, we found that in consultations where an interpreter was present, their presence clearly changed the dynamics of the consultation in terms of how information was relayed between the doctor and the patient.
Therefore, we have conducted focus groups with 30 interpreters from NSW and Victoria to research the interpreter’s perspective about interpreting for patients in the cancer setting and the challenges they experience from a professional, cultural and personal perspective. The information gathered will provide insight into doctor-interpreter-patient communication. It is hoped that the data from this study will lead to strategies to improve communication in medical consultations involving an interpreter. This research will provide another dimension to our CALD research.


Specifically, we aim to understand:

  1. the interpreter perspective in communication
  2. interpreter roles (conduit or cultural broker)
  3. how interpreters deal with emotionally challenging situations
  4. the greatest challenges in oncology, and
  5. how people in their culture perceive cancer and how it is best managed.