“My mom says, ‘I didn’t go through this. We went through this together.’ It’s like our thing...”

—Daughter of a diagnosed mother
(Research Participant)

Research Overview
Today, 567 women will learn they have breast cancer.
And 567 families will begin their cancer journey.

CANCER IMPACTS AN ENTIRE FAMILY. How we communicate is an integral part of how we cope with the illness and can influence the likelihood of future disease occurrences. In the face of breast cancer, many women feel that their experience is fundamentally a mother-daughter journey.

Mothers and daughters share the breast cancer journey in many ways. They share a disease risk, regardless of who is diagnosed. As such, they are concerned for themselves but also one another. Mothers and daughters often want to support each other but, at the same time, try to protect one another from their respective fears. They can even mirror one another in how they cope and manage the psychological and physiological stress associated with breast cancer. How mothers and daughters communicate affects how they cope individually and together and can contribute to preventing future disease incidences.

Mother-daughter communication and breast cancer coping and prevention is a critical issue: Family communication is as central to health as other biological or physical processes that are directly tied to survival. Yet, it is difficult to know what to say, how to talk to one another, or how to be there in the most supportive manner.

Integrating healthy family communication into breast cancer care can enhance a woman and her family’s ability to adjust to the illness and the physical and emotional changes that come along with it.

In 2006, Dr. Carla L. Fisher initiated a research program on Mother-Daughter Communication and Breast Cancer Coping & Prevention in an effort to gain an understanding about how mothers and daughters can enhance their communication in ways that improve how they adjust to the disease and promote better health outcomes.

Her research focuses on describing and explaining mother- daughter communicative behavior that is key to helping them cope together, understand each other’s perspectives, and to engage in behavior that is central to disease prevention. This research program helps identify women’s unique needs across the life span by appreciating mothers’ and daughters’ diverse experiences in relation to their age or developmental phase of life.

The Fisher Mother -Daughter Research Program is working to contribute to what practitioners and scholars have called a "psychosocial map" to help family members and the medical community understand, anticipate, and respond in ways that optimize mothers’ and daughters' adjustment, coping, and ability to prevent future disease incidences.

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Research Partners

The Fisher Mother Daughter Research Project is actively seeking research partners.


Ask a Fisher Team member to speak with your group or organization.