Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 133-150

First online:

Qualitative Cancer Genetic Counseling Research, Part I: Ethnography 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 Email author 
  • , Carol L. McAllisterAffiliated withDepartments of Medicine, and Obstetrics-Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh
  • , Wendy S. RubinsteinAffiliated withDepartment of Human Genetics at the Graduate School of Public Health, University of PittsburghMagee-Womems Hospital, 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 experience of several months' ethnographic research by a genetic counselor researcher in a cancer treatment clinic. One goal of the exercise was to directly experience a method of qualitative research known as ethnography, which relies heavily on participant-observation, in an applied clinical setting. Another goal was to explore a previously undescribed research area in the genetic counseling literature, namely, the meaning of cancer and cancer treatment for affected individuals and their support companions. Here we report on a personal account of the experiences of conducting and publishing the research. The preliminary analysis and results of this field experience are published elsewhere (Peters et al. (2001) J Genet Counsel 10(2):151–168.). These initial findings support the feasibility of genetic counselors, who are trained in specific social science methodologies, to conduct qualitative research pertinent to genetic counseling practice.

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