Cancer Journey for American Indians and Alaska Natives in the Pacific Northwest

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Abstract

Purpose/Objectives:

To describe the experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native cancer survivors to improve understanding of the trajectory of cancer treatment.

Research Approach:

Qualitative focus group research. Setting: Rural and geographically isolated American Indian and Alaska Native communities in the Pacific Northwest.

Participants:

30 American Indian and Alaska Native cancer survivors or caregivers.

Methodologic Approach:

The authors analyzed data from two focus groups with cancer survivors by using thematic analysis informed by indigenous methodologies.

Findings:

Based on focus group findings, the authors developed a conceptual model of the cancer experience called Rough Waters. Participants described their cancer experience as a collective journey involving family and friends and requiring resources to offset challenges along the way. Dominant themes were delays, isolation, communication, money, advocacy, spirituality, and family involvement.

Conclusions:

American Indians and Alaska Natives in the Pacific Northwest have special cultural needs during cancer care. The current study provides examples that can guide patient-provider interactions.

Interpretation:

Using the metaphor of cancer as a journey, clinicians can begin a dialogue to identify what will impede or assist the cancer journey for their American Indian and Alaska Native patients.

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