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The Life-Changing Illness: How Cancer Affects Families Essay

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Cancer is a life-altering disease that affects not only the patient but the people around them as well. Cancer has become so prevalent that many families are used to its harmful ways. Cancer affects the totality of the patient. The patient and their perception of cancer start with information about preventive screenings, the journal 'Exploring Older Women's Approaches to Cervical Cancer Screening' explore how older women decide to participate in screenings and describe barriers to them receiving such preventative measures. To diagnose cervical cancer, according to the journal, regular pap smears are the most effective. The journal says that when women reach a certain age that screenings such as pap smears have no use after three negative tests. Therefore older women are no longer considered having a risk for gynecological cancers but can develop cancer and increases the chance for them being in later stages of the disease. African Americans and other minorities are among the percentage of people who often go underscreened or even unscreened. The journal does have a valid point stating that if people think they are at risk for a disease, then they will do preventative measures like screening. Barriers such as lack of knowledge, health care experiences, communication with the provider, and the client's perception of their own risk affect receiving health screenings. 

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Often, people describe experiences with preventive screenings as uncomfortable and have feelings of embarrassment, attitudes of health care providers and staff, and more. The journal completed a study that asked participants questions related to their definition of cancer, barriers to screenings, what their perceived risk of cancer is and why people, in this case, get cervical cancer. When asked about their description of cancer explained fear and unpredictability, they had no concrete definition of what cancer is. Some women associated the risk of cervical cancer to STD history; the number of sexual partners and sexual activity was incorrectly concluding that if they had no sexual history, then they are not at risk. The women's signs for cancer screening were confused, some women associated irregularities with their periods as symptoms that needed to be checked. Spirituality also plays a role in a patient's perception of cancer. When asked what helps someone to survive cancer, patients took a spiritual approach naming a higher power or through prayer. It helps them feel in control; some women described fatalism. Fatalism is the belief that everything is predetermined and inevitable.

Physically, women described a loss of femininity because of changes like hair loss and possible mastectomy, leading to depression and anxiety in the patient. To increase the patient's survivability, those around them are very important. Cancer patients depend profoundly on those that are around them, whether it be a spouse, children, or friends. There are positive and negative aspects of caregiving as the journal 'Primary Caregivers support for Female Family Members with Breast or Gynecologic Cancer' describes. The study conducted in the journal explores experiences of caring for family members with cancer. Family support is crucial to cancer patients because it can affect the patient's attitude toward living through disease. According to the journal, female cancer patients tend to lean on their friends and family members more than male cancer patients. A lot of studies focus on negatives about caregivers of cancer patients such as depression, anxiety, stress, financial burden, and more. The journal talks about a concept called posttraumatic growth, positive changes from their cancer diagnosis. Caregiver's also experienced posttraumatic growth. Sometimes, family members realize that they have not been involved with the patient and may feel a sense of regret and shame. 

According to the journal, study participants felt that they could help the patient cope by making them laugh or help make them comfortable after treatment. Caregivers often take it upon themselves to gain knowledge and information about cancer, treatment options, post-op care, chemotherapy from multiple sources. Caregivers described that the 'patient's will to recover grew stronger, along with their hope and resilience.' Caregiver's changed their lifestyles either through diet, smoking cessation, and social interaction, proving to have a positive effect on the patient. Caregiver's also found a new appreciation for female cancer patients; most felt guilt and regret thinking that they may have caused the patient's cancer diagnosis. Caregivers made it a point to be positive but were also fearful of reoccurrence or death of family members with cancer. Fear, anxiety, and distress happen when not knowing possible outcomes and is experienced by the caregiver and the patient. Caregivers and family members realize the importance of the female cancer patient and their roles as mothers and wives. In reality, the patient, caregivers, and family members form stronger and positive relationships, despite the circumstances.

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