Communication across cancer boundaries

Kaori Yagasaki, Hiroko Komatsu


Background: Cancer patients can be socially isolated and lonely. The general public still has negative attitudes toward cancer and cancer patients. It is important for cancer patients to have a supportive environment and to connect with other people.

Methods: We conducted a qualitative study with two focus group interviews of eight persons using a grounded theory approach to understand ordinary people’s perceptions of cancer and cancer patients, and to explore their experience of interacting with the patients.

Results: This study revealed “Communication across cancer boundaries” as a core category with six themes: “negative assumptions,” “social stigma,” “communication boundaries,” “transforming perceptions of cancer patients through interactions,” “building communication competence,” and “awakening empathy.” The ordinary people still had negative assumptions about cancer and cancer patients, leading to social stigma and creating communication boundaries. The experience of interaction with a cancer patient, however, altered their views on cancer patients, and reminded them of the need for communication competence to create a relationship with empathy.

Conclusions: The results of this study provided unique insights into ordinary people’s views on cancer and cancer patients. Health care providers should understand how ordinary people perceive cancer patients, and provide education and they should provide information to both cancer patients and the general public. A society’s greater understanding of cancer and cancer patients enables the society to provide an empathetic community where cancer is no longer seen as a taboo and stigmatized.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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