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Messages of Hope: Helping Family Members to Overcome Fears and Fatalistic Attitudes Toward Cancer

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Abstract

This qualitative study explored strategies family members of African-American cancer patients used to overcome their fears and fatalistic attitudes toward cancer. Twenty-four family members were recruited through criterion purposeful sampling. Data were collected and analyzed using open-ended interviews and thematic analysis. Fears and fatalistic attitudes could be traced to personal experiences with cancer and information being communicated within their networks. Strategies used to overcome fears and fatalistic attitudes toward cancer included an awareness of advances in cancer treatments, information obtained from their health-care providers, and faith in God. Family members supported the patient through efforts of encouraging them to talk about what they were going through, to be strong, to maintain a positive environment and normalcy, and to use spirituality as a source of strength. Family members also suggested that health-care providers and researchers tailor intervention studies to consider that the patient is a part of a larger family system and that the entire family needs support to overcome long-held fears and fatalistic attitudes toward cancer. These findings suggest that despite advances in cancer care and widespread media coverage to change perceptions about cancer, fears and fatalistic attitudes toward cancer persist and likely influence the family members’ ability to optimally support the cancer patient. At the time of diagnosis, both patient and the entire family unit should be educated of advances in cancer care, that cancer is no longer a death sentence, and supported to overcome fears and fatalistic attitudes.

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Correspondence to Jill B. Hamilton.

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Hamilton, J.B., Worthy, V.C., Moore, A.D. et al. Messages of Hope: Helping Family Members to Overcome Fears and Fatalistic Attitudes Toward Cancer. J Canc Educ 32, 190–197 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-015-0895-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-015-0895-z

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