The Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control

Cancer survivors education 4.0: exploring experimental learning through real-life experience according to age group

Lead Researcher(s):  Karine Bilodeau

Lead Institution: Centre de recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l’Universite de Montreal (CRCHUM)

Co-Investigators: Jacinthe Pepin, Marie-Pascale Pomey, Serge Sultan, Nathalie Folch, Danielle Charpentier, Marie-France Vachon, Marie-Charlotte Charrie

ARCC Program Area(s):

Funding Term: 2018-2019

Project Summary:

This project focuses on the challenges faced by cancer survivors and what health-care services are available to this population. The state of knowledge on the needs of survivors is rich, but few learning theories have been identified for the development of educational interventions for cancer survivors. They proposed to explore learning theories not used in the clinical area, such as the constructivist competency-based approach to education, to create, along with cancer survivors, innovative learning pathways adapted to the unique experience of “being a cancer survivor.”  This is the first study to analyze post-cancer learning through the relations between survivors’ challenges, strategies and learning. As such, it opens a new avenue to improve the post-cancer experience and empower cancer survivors through their journey.

The aim of this seed project was to explore, identify, and prioritize the experiential learning situations among cancer survivors of different age groups. The research team adopted a collaborative research approach to bring together survivors, clinicians and decision makers to participate in this study.  Focus groups were used to explore how cancer patients manage their lives before and after their cancer diagnosis, and what kind of real-life situations or challenges they learned from the most.

Data from the focus groups revealed that participants’ lives after cancer treatment were shaped by learning to live with a chronic disease.  Other spheres of learning experiences include: 1) searching for one’s identity; 2) autonomy; 3) disruption of social roles and responsibilities; and 4) reclaiming one’s life. For each sphere, challenges/needs, strategies and learning were identified and analyzed, showing differences across age groups.

These results suggest that cancer survivorship challenges can offer potent learning opportunities and must be understood within the survivor’s age, life situation, and life course.  They suggest that individuals do not go through the same stages at the same time and that post-cancer challenges impact on an individual’s life course. Health professionals must be sensitive to the fact that life courses are now diverse and not associated with biological age, and that post-cancer challenges can evolve over time and manifest themselves in different ways.  This study sheds light on the potential value of experiential learning as an untapped resource and invites reflection on how cancer survivorship programs can be adapted to enhance patient education and quality of life. This project was a preliminary step towards developing, implementing, and evaluating innovative patient education interventions based on experiential learning. In Fall 2019, Dr. Bilodeau was awarded a CIHR grant – Priority announcement-Patient-Oriented Research: Early-Career Investigator. The research to be conducted with this new grant builds on the preliminary results from the ARCC seed grant, with the aim to document and understand how to improve the learning of persons diagnosed with hematological cancer after treatment completion.

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