Purpose/Objectives: To analyze five common assumptions about a family's adjustment to breast cancer and to suggest needed future directions for family-focused research.
Data Sources: Published research in nursing, psychiatry, behavioral medicine, and psycho-oncology about families' functioning with breast cancer.
Data Synthesis: Evidence from published research is that family members do not modify their coping behavior in response to illness-related pressures, do not appear to learn over time how to manage illness-related concerns, are not responsive to each other's thoughts and feelings about cancer, experience tension in the marriage from cancer, and neither understand nor assist children affected by a mother's breast cancer.
Conclusions: Current assumptions about how families function with breast cancer need to be replaced with a more informed, data-based view that guides the development of better programs and services for assisting families.
Implications for Nursing: Future research and interventions need to address the impact of breast cancer on the primary relationships in a household, the impact of the illness on the family's core functions, and the family members' competencies to manage the illness.