search button
newscenter logo
Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Follow SDSU  Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook Follow SDSU on Google+ SDSU RSS Feed

SDSU professor Wayne Beach's research focuses on communication and cancer. SDSU professor Wayne Beach's research focuses on communication and cancer.

Understanding Communication and Cancer

SDSU professor Wayne Beach was honored for his work with communication and cancer.
By Daisy Santana

San Diego State University School of Communication professor Wayne Beach has been honored for his research on cancer communication.

Beach was awarded the 2017 Distinguished Scholar Award from the Western States Communication Association (WSCA), of which he has been a member for 43 years. Beach founded the association’s language and social interaction interest group. The organization honored him for his dedication and outstanding work with communication and cancer.

Heather Crandall, executive council member-at-large for WSCA, presented Beach with the award in Salt Lake City, Utah. At the ceremony, she noted, “He has made a difference in the ways scholars and students think about the nature, function and scope of communication.”

Conversations about cancer

Since the late 1980s, Beach has dedicated his research to communication and cancer, specifically how people talk about the disease and how communication between patients and care providers can enhance quality of life and health outcomes.

Specializing in conversational analysis, Beach’s communication and cancer research started when his mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed four months later.

He assembled more research material when a family donated a shoebox of audiocassette tapes to Beach with recordings of phone call conversations with doctors and family members during the time of their mother’s breast cancer diagnosis to the end of her life.

Beach wrote on these materials for a decade—including in his book, “A Natural History of Family Cancer: Interactional Resources for Managing Illness”—during which he received a $2.2 million in grants for his Conversations About Cancer project from the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.

With the help of the grants, Beach turned the audiocassette tapes and his book into a theatrical play, “When Cancer Calls.” The performance expresses the extensive and complicated dialogue that comes along with cancer diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.

What's next?

Along with being a professor at SDSU, Beach is an adjunct professor in the Department of Surgery and a member of the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego. He is also a faculty member in the SDSU-UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health.

In collaboration with the Moores Cancer Center, Beach is working with the television station PBS to produce a national documentary film called “A Journey Through Breast Cancer.”

The documentary will examine one woman’s journey from her initial diagnosis throughout her multiple surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy.

Following her and her spouse, the film focuses on the communication and social relationship aspects of her journey.

Beach said being honored by WSCA acts as further motivation to continue his communication and cancer research.