Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 151-168

First online:

Qualitative Cancer Genetic Counseling Research, Part II: Findings from a Exploratory Ethnographic Study in a Cancer Clinic

  • June A. PetersAffiliated withDepartment of Human Genetics, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh; and the Cancer Genetics Program which is jointly sponsored by Magee-Womens Hospital (MWH)/The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)/The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Health SystemClinical Genetics Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute (NCI) Email author 
  • , Carol L. McAllisterAffiliated withDepartment of Human Services Administration, Graduate School of Public Health, and Anthropology Department, University of Pittsburgh
  • , Wendy S. RubinsteinAffiliated withDepartments of Medicine, and Obstetrics-Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the School of Medicine, University of PittsburghDepartment of Human Genetics at the Graduate School of Public Health, University of PittsburghCancer Genetics Program, which is jointly sponsored by MWH/UPCI/UPMC (see above under author 1)

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This is a report of the preliminary findings of a brief exploratory ethnographic study in a cancer diagnosis and treatment clinic. The main research purpose was to explore the meaning of cancer and cancer treatment to patients themselves and to their relatives and close friends. The methods are described in detail in a paper focusing on the experiences of being a novice ethnographer (Peters et al. (2001) J Genet Counsel 10(2):133–150.). The preliminary results of this exploratory fieldwork indicate that the experience of attending a cancer treatment clinic for evaluation and/or treatment is a complex social, emotional as well as medical process for patients and families. Themes with relevance to genetic counselors that emerged from this early observation period included ideas about causes of cancer, the complex nature of families and kinship, coping and support, use of food, and healing. These initial findings have implications for genetic counseling practice and hopefully will stimulate more qualitative social and behavioral research in cancer genetic counseling.

hereditary cancer genetic counseling qualitative behavioral psychosocial research ethnography anthropology participant-observation family