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Cancer Journey for American Indians and Alaska Natives in the Pacific Northwest

Emily A. Haozous
Ardith Doorenbos
Lori A. Alvord
David R. Flum
Arden M. Morris
ONF 2016, 43(5), 625-635 DOI: 10.1188/16.ONF.625-635

Purpose/Objectives: To describe the experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native cancer survivors to improve understanding of the trajectory of cancer treatment.

Research Approach: Qualitative focus group research.

Setting: Rural and geographically isolated American Indian and Alaska Native communities in the Pacific Northwest.

Participants: 30 American Indian and Alaska Native cancer survivors or caregivers.

Methodologic Approach: The authors analyzed data from two focus groups with cancer survivors by using thematic analysis informed by indigenous methodologies.

Findings: Based on focus group findings, the authors developed a conceptual model of the cancer experience called Rough Waters. Participants described their cancer experience as a collective journey involving family and friends and requiring resources to offset challenges along the way. Dominant themes were delays, isolation, communication, money, advocacy, spirituality, and family involvement.

Conclusions: American Indians and Alaska Natives in the Pacific Northwest have special cultural needs during cancer care. The current study provides examples that can guide patient–provider interactions.

Interpretation: Using the metaphor of cancer as a journey, clinicians can begin a dialogue to identify what will impede or assist the cancer journey for their American Indian and Alaska Native patients.

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