Breast cancer experiences: Women's reflections years after diagnosis

Margaret Barton-Burke, University of Rhode Island


Many women diagnosed with breast cancer m the last decade are either living with active treatment for the disease or are classified as cured but living with the sequelae of the disease or treatment. Most research has been on the physical aspects of the disease and conducted during or immediately after active treatment. Information beyond the physical dimension of women's experiences is small and narrowly focused, and research beyond 5 years is almost nonexistent. A full depiction of the multidimensional nature of being diagnosed with, treated for, recovering from, and living with the aftermath of breast cancer is lacking. ^ The aim of this study was to gain a more encompassing description and understanding of women's experiences with breast cancer by exploring those experiences years after initial diagnosis and treatment, from a primarily emic and self-reflective perspective. A retrospective, descriptive approach, using six modified focus group meetings with seven English-speaking, Caucasian women who had been treated for Stage I or II breast cancer and were at least 2 years post treatment, was used to address the following questions: To what extent are physical, psychological, social, economic, and spiritual/existential dimensions encompassed within women's experiences with breast cancer? What is the range of responses within these dimensions that emerge when women describe their breast cancer experiences? What are the crossdimensional patterns of responses that emerge when women describe their breast cancer experiences? Notes, audiotapes, and transcriptions were analyzed using Schatzman and Strauss's (1973) notation system and guided the research questions. ^ Findings suggest that there are five-physical, psychological, social, economic, and spiritual and existential-dimensions that encompass women's experiences with breast cancer. No additional dimensions emerged from this study. The spiritual and existential dimension appears to be as important as the physical dimension since the breast cancer experiences of these women seemed to be guided as much by what happened to them physically and as their spiritual and existential beliefs about life. Additional cross-dimensional findings include the dichotomy of the experience, the notion of new normal, the language of a subculture, the costs of cancer, the valuing of people, time, and life, and cancer-related fatigue. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Nursing|Health Sciences, Oncology

Recommended Citation

Margaret Barton-Burke, "Breast cancer experiences: Women's reflections years after diagnosis" (2002). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3053092.