Women with breast cancer: Embracing and distancing themselves from the term cancer survivor

Wilson H. Stephenson, Paula C. Fletcher, Margaret A. Schneider


The purpose of this study was to examine the lived experiences of women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, specifically focusing on the meaning they associate with the term cancer survivor. A woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer in North America undoubtedly will encounter the term cancer survivor at some point following her diagnosis. However, few studies have been focused on examining the meaning of this term for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, let alone whether these women embrace the use of this term. The lived experiences of nine women between the ages of 35 to 58 years were examined using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with interpretive phenomenology as a theoretical orientation. Data collection continued until three distinct themes emerged and saturation of data was achieved for each theme. The results of this study are focused on the meanings associated with the term cancer survivor for these women including identification, safety, and behavior change. A continuum model was developed from the data in order to illustrate the complexity of this subject matter. A person's position along the continuum depends on the meanings that person associates with the term cancer survivor (identification, safety, or behavior change) and that person's feelings, either positive or negative, towards those meanings. As such, this continuum demonstrates how a woman can embrace certain aspects of the term cancer survivor and distance herself from other aspects. These findings will benefit clinicians because attaining a rich description of a woman's lived experience with breast cancer will help them to understand and address psychosocial issues that arise throughout the breast cancer journey.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/cns.v2n1p64


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Clinical Nursing Studies
ISSN 2324-7940(Print)   ISSN 2324-7959(Online)

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