Research That Matters (January 17 - 20, 2008)

Saturday, January 19, 2008: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Blue Room (Omni Shoreham)
[H/D] Cancer and the Family
Symposium Organizer:Julianne S. Oktay, PhD, University of Maryland at Baltimore
Discussant (Optional):John F. Linder, MSW, University of California, Davis
Building the Cancer Family: Family Planning in the Era of Genetically Enhanced Assisted Reproductive Technologies
Allison Werner-Lin, PhD
Problem-Solving Methodologies for Family Caregivers of Cancer Patients
James Zabora, ScD, Matt Loscalzo, MSW, Karlynn BrintzenhofeSzoc, DSW
The Importance of Family Relationships in Determining Quality of Life in Chinese Women with Breast Cancer
Evaon C. Wong-Kim, PhD, MPH, LCSW, Mary Sormanti, PhD
We Were All in It Together: Young Adult Childhood Cancer Survivors Talk about Their Families
Carol Decker, PhD
Abstract Text:
Although it is often stated that ‘cancer is a family disease', it is only recently that the families of cancer patients are receiving serious attention. Families are critical providers of care, both emotional and practical. Also, it is increasingly recognized that family members are subject to potentially severe psychological, social, spiritual and economic consequences over the course of the patient's disease and treatment, and may be in need of intervention themselves. The Office of Cancer Survivorship of the National Cancer Institute states “Nor do we understand cancer's consequences for millions of family members affected by this illness, many of whom may themselves be at increased risk for cancer due to shared cancer-causing genes, life-style, and/or toxic exposures. As cancer care increasingly is pushed into the outpatient setting, the economic, physical, and emotional burden on family members is increasing. We have, to date, failed to fully appreciate this additional at-risk population or taken advantage of the opportunity to provide these vital caregivers with supportive or health-promoting interventions as part of standard cancer care.” OCS NCI Research on family aspects of the cancer experience is especially important for social workers, who work with cancer patients directly, often focusing on family issues, and with family members who are affected by the illness. Assessing and intervening to support cancer patient family members is increasingly recognized as an integral component of comprehensive cancer care.

This symposium presents current research on cancer and family, exploring both the perspective of the cancer patient, and that of family caregivers. The symposium includes research across the spectrum of disease, from known risk (pre-vivorship) to advanced stages of cancer. It also includes research on patients and families across the lifespan, from adolescents, young adults making family planning decisions, midlife women and older adults. The papers included here also represent a wide range of research methodologies, from exploratory qualitative studies to quasi-experimental intervention research.

The first paper examines the impact of heredity on family planning, reproductive capacity, identity, sexuality, and quality of life across the adult lifespan for women genetically predisposed to breast and ovarian cancer. The second presentation examines how adolescent cancer affected each patient's family, causing a reassessment of familial priorities. The third research presentation examines the role of familial relationships in the experience of quality of life for non-native, middle age Chinese women with breast cancer. The final presentation presents the results of three pilot interventions designed to improve problem-solving skills of caregivers of advanced cancer patients. The intervention was tailored to subgroups of families, based on the results of the first intervention study. These included less-functional families, and African American caregivers.

The symposium will provide opportunities for discussion of the roles of families in cancer care, the implications of the research for social work interventions, and the needs for future research. Because of the range of research methodologies used in these presentations, there will also be opportunity for discussion of the contribution of different research traditions to a single issue.

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