The Strengths and Resources Young Women and their Family Members use during Treatment for Breast Cancer
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Breast cancer is the leading cancer in women worldwide; one in eight will be diagnosed before the age of 75 years. Of those diagnosed 25% are under the age of 50 years and likely to be premenopausal and have family responsibilities (Coyne & Borbasi, 2006; Sammarco, 2001). Although all women regardless of age experience difficulties, younger women face significant difficulties after their diagnosis related to their phase of life (Bloom, Stewart, Chang, & Banks, 2004). The diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer is a time of intense physical and emotional disturbance. The women rarely go through this alone. They are supported by their family members who are distressed and lost in the situation. During this time families experience a range of responses including changes to communication, role and sense of control as they respond to the diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. While family is the mainstay of support for young women with breast cancer there is little research that has addressed the family response to breast cancer. The aim of this research was to explore the strengths and resources young women and their family members use during treatment for breast cancer. The use of a family framework allowed the unique nature of the family response to breast cancer to be explored. A two phase mixed method approach informed by the Resiliency Model of Family Stress, Adjustment and Adaptation (McCubbin & McCubbin, 1993) was used, to investigate the strengths and resources used by the family in response to breast cancer treatment. A total of 111 participants, women with breast cancer and their family members completed the composite questionnaire. A non-parametric analysis of the quantitative data included descriptive statistics, correlations between variables and changes over time. Personal interviews with 14 women with breast cancer and nine family members added richness to the research data. A family case study analysis of the 36 families provided information on the family as a group’s response to breast cancer treatment.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Breast cancer patients
Breast cancer patients family relationships