The evolving meaning of cancer for long-term survivors of breast cancer.


PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES: To discover the different meanings of cancer for older women who are long-term survivors of breast cancer. DESIGN: Qualitative study using a heuristic approach. SETTING: Large metropolitan area in the Midwestern United States. SAMPLE: A sample of eight women was obtained using network sampling. The women ranged in age from 65-77 years. Length of survival ranged from 5.5-29 years. Five of the women had been treated with a lumpectomy (four with radiation and chemotherapy and one with radiation only). The three other women had been treated with a simple mastectomy, one of whom also was treated with chemotherapy. METHODS: Interviews were conducted in the women's homes. Audiotaped interviews were transcribed and manually coded for patterns and themes. MAIN RESEARCH VARIABLES: Meaning of cancer. FINDINGS: Three meanings of cancer emerged from the data: (a) cancer as sickness and death, (b) cancer as an obstacle, and (c) cancer as transforming. CONCLUSIONS: As the women worked through their cancer experience, their perspectives changed. The meaning of cancer after surviving the disease and its treatment centered around positive, insightful experiences and expansive, renewing interactions with their environment. Further research examining the meaning of cancer is needed to broaden the transferability of the findings to other groups. IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE: Understanding the meaning of cancer for older women who are long-term breast cancer survivors may enhance nurses' sensitivity to survivors' perspectives. Knowledge of survivors' different meanings of cancer may help to paint a new vision of cancer survivorship comprised of potentially positive, transforming experiences.


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Oncology nursing forum