Findings from our Phase I feasibility study reveal strong impacts of a theatrical production we have developed entitled Conversations about Cancer (CAC): A play in which all dialogue is drawn from naturally occurring (transcribed) interactions between family members as they navigate their way through the trials and tribulations, hopes and triumphs of a cancer journey. The first natural history of a family talking through cancer on the telephone, from diagnosis through death of a loved one, was examined in a recent and award-winning volume entitled A Natural History of Family Cancer: Interactional Resources for Managing Illness (NH). Based on conversations analyzed for this volume, and related research on the psychosocial impacts and consequences of surviving cancer as a family, these phone calls have been adapted to the stage in a dramatic performance receiving rave reviews from diverse audience members. CAC thus bridges basic communication research with a major social problem: Communicating about cancer. We utilize the power of the arts to create an exceptional "edutainment" learning tool. With CAC, meaningful dialogue is triggered about delicate, complex, and often misunderstood communication challenges arising from cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Ordinary family life is explored in the very midst of cancer, exposing often taken-for-granted conceptions of health, illness, and cancer communication. The goal of this Phase II project is to extend our Phase I feasibility study by 1) refining the CAC script, engaging professional actors and theatre experts to create a new live performance in a San Diego theatre venue, and working with expert filmmakers to video record and edit this performance into a DVD for national dissemination, 2) refining our protocol website providing online access to CAC information and products, 3) enhancing our ability to further assess audience impacts by validating pre-post self-report measures, and 4) conducting a randomized control, multi-city effectiveness trial to evaluate the efficacy of CAC for varied audiences across the United States. From the southwest to the northeast, cities will include San Diego, Salt Lake City, Lincoln, and Boston. DVD screenings for each city will focus on cancer patients and family members, and be hosted through unique collaborations between major universities, cancer centers, and community cancer groups. To accomplish this work, we have formed an interdisciplinary team of health communication researchers, cancer professionals, and theatre experts. Our CAC project is significant because it portrays, for the first time, how a real family navigates their way through cancer and channels these experiences into powerful educational programs for diverse cancer centers, medical groups, and training for health professionals. CAC is innovative because it breaks new ground as a theatrical genre tailored to family cancer, can be employed as live performances or through DVD screenings, and uses mixed methods to create and assess educational messages about cancer for audiences.
We have developed a unique theatrical production, Conversations about Cancer (CAC), in which all dialogue is drawn from actual family cancer phone conversations. CAC assists cancer patients, family members, and medical experts with understanding - and talking about - the fundamental importance of communication when navigating the trials, tribulations, hopes, and triumphs of a cancer journey. Innovative educational programs are being created for cancer centers, medical groups, health communication training, and community-based play productions.
|Beach, Wayne A; Buller, Mary K; Dozier, David M et al. (2014) The Conversations About Cancer (CAC) project: assessing feasibility and audience impacts from viewing The Cancer Play. Health Commun 29:462-72|