Understanding aboriginal peoples' cultural and family connections can help inform the development of culturally appropriate cancer survivorship models of care

Eli Ristevski, Sharyn Thompson, Sharon Kingaby, Claire Nightingale, Mahesh Iddawela

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PURPOSE To explore the cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship experiences of Aboriginal people in the Gippsland region, Victoria, Australia, and identify factors critical to the development of a culturally appropriate cancer survivorship model of care. PATIENTS AND METHODS Yarning circles were used to capture the stories of 15 people diagnosed with cancer and/or those of family members. Yarning circles were conducted in two locations in the Gippsland region. Sessions were facilitated by an Aboriginal Elder, audio recorded, and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis of the data were triangulated among three researchers and incorporated researcher reflexivity. RESULTS Cultural connections and family were critical supports on the cancer journey. Putting the needs of the family first and caring for sick family members were more important than an individual's own health. There was "no time to grieve" for one's own cancer diagnosis and look after oneself. Cancer was a private experience; however, the constancy of deaths highlighted the importance of raising family awareness. Health professionals did not always understand the importance of people's cultural and family supports in their treatment and recovery. There were negatives attitudes in hospitals when family come to visit, seeing family as too large and overstaying visiting times. Health professionals did not seek family assistance with communication of information to family members whose literacy level was low, nor did they include family in treatment decision-making. Access to services depended on family support with transport, finances, and family responsibilities, often resulting in lapses in treatment and follow-up services. CONCLUSION Understanding the importance of Aboriginal peoples' cultural and family connections can help to inform the development of culturally safe cancer survivorship models of care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-132
Number of pages9
JournalJCO Global Oncology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2020

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