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Health Commun. 2003;15(4):415-29.

Silence and cancer: why do families and patients fail to communicate?

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School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-4961, USA.


This study examined the phenomenon of avoidance of family communication about cancer. Thirty-seven Stage III or IV lung cancer patients and 40 caregivers, including 24 primary and 16 secondary caregivers, were interviewed; a total of 26 families were studied. The interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. Analysis of the interviews indicated that two thirds of the families (65%) experienced communication problems. The avoidance of family communication was associated with several underlying thought processes: avoidance of psychological distress; desire for "mutual protection;" and belief in positive thinking. Family communication was further hindered by the increasing difficulty of issues inherent to late-stage cancer. The adverse impact of communication avoidance and the implications of our findings are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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