TRU cancer studies

“I got strength, courage and confidence by my experience with cancer,” says a breast cancer survivor.

The World Health Organization declared that breast cancer was the most common cancer in the world in February 2021.

An estimated 28,000 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. An average of 78 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day and one in eight Canadian women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.

Research studies have shown people who are diagnosed and treated with cancer look towards living to the maximum of their capacity by living in the present by setting realistic goals, being willing to compromise and regaining control of their lives. After cancer treatment, people look towards maintaining a sense of independence and self-esteem, trying to resolve negative emotions and depression by actively doing things to help themselves return to work and a near normal life.

These people living with, through and beyond a diagnosis of cancer have specific needs in each step of their journey that may include diagnosis, treatment, symptom, comorbidities management, psychosocial support and advanced care.

One of the early research study opportunities was to explore the voice of people’s experiences and perspectives living with breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and surviving.

The Health Research Culture Fund (HRCF) Clinical study funded by Thompson Rivers University, Interior Health and community partnerships, used a community participatory action research and intersectionality approach, in which women with breast cancer treated and survivors were asked to describe their experiences with cancer care through surveys, interviews and focus group.

Providing participants with the first opportunity to voice their experiences, HRCF identified a need to improve social and cultural locations of cancer navigation for women, immigrant people and those living in the rural community.

The study highlighted the necessity to improve access to healthcare services and recognition of ethnic, cultural, and social inclusion of marginalised people. It revealed the essentials to address cancer stigmatization, fear of disclosing cancer and a requirement for culturally appropriate navigation and survivorship approaches that impact people from accessing and utilizing cancer care, including regular follow-up and monitoring for early screening, detection and prevention for enhancing quality of life.

This research highlighted the impact of marginalization such as distance, social, race, gender and class on breast cancer survivors’ experiences and cultural considerations with cancer related treatment distress.

Another study, the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSHR) Research Exchange study funded by Thompson Rivers University and community collaboration, shared recommendations on prioritizing cancer navigation and survivorship with community partnership with healthcare leaders, cancer survivors and community members, and developing innovative strategies to support culturally appropriate navigation and survivorship.

The SSHR study shared conversations and discoveries with community stakeholder engagement through knowledge translation on psychosocial and emotional needs of breast cancer survivors’ experiences.

Recognizing that each person has unique needs, it is critical to visualize navigation and survivorship strategies and implementation approaches which translate to culturally appropriate care.

Melba Dsouza, Kamloops

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