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The combination of a difficult early diagnosis, few treatment options, and high mortality rate could make the experience of pancreatic cancer different from the experience of other cancers, both for patients and families. To design effective interventions for families with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, there is need for a model of family members' adjustment to cancer that is specific to these unique aspects of pancreatic cancer.
Trained clinical interviewers and a genetic counselor conducted phone interviews with 22 first-degree relatives—parents, siblings, and offspring—from a pool of participating family members. The interview transcripts were analyzed using qualitative coding methods.
Participants expressed both similar and different themes compared with other literature on adjustment to cancer. Relatives struggled through both the initial diagnosis and its aftermath, seeking to balance their own strong feelings with the needs of the ailing family member. Support systems were identified as very important, regardless of the source of the support, and those without them reported more intense difficulties. Many family members felt that everything was happening too fast to slow down and process what was going on.
Significance of results:
Pancreatic cancer families may be unable to cope by taking one day at a time and must find other ways of dealing with stress. Also, the compressed timeline between diagnosis and death may heighten certain coping behaviors, such as the reevaluation of one's priorities.
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