Long-Term Breast Cancer Survivors' Perceptions of Support From Female Partners: An Exploratory Study

J. Lee White

Ulrike Boehmer

breast neoplasms, family caregivers, social support
ONF 2012, 39(2), 210-217. DOI: 10.1188/12.ONF.210-217

Purpose/Objectives: To describe the social support experiences of long-term breast cancer survivors who have female partners, from the perspective of survivors.

Research Approach: Descriptive study using qualitative methods.

Setting: United States.

Participants: A purposive convenience sample of 15 partnered sexual minority women (SMW) (e.g., women with female partners) diagnosed with nonmetastatic breast cancer from 2000-2005.

Methodologic Approach: One-on-one interviews were conducted by telephone. Interviews were semistructured through the use of an interview guide. Transcribed data were coded and analyzed to identify emergent themes.

Main Research Variables: Perceptions of support and broad aspects of the intimate partner relationship that may critically impact the psychological well-being of SMW following breast cancer.

Findings: Six salient themes describe SMW survivors' perceptions of support: (a) female partners are the singular source of survivors' most valuable support; partners support survivors by (b) discussing survivors' health and distress, which survivors associate with (c) perceived partner distress, and (d) managing the home and caretaking, which survivors associate with (e) perceived partner burden; and partners support survivors by (f) sharing in a life beyond cancer.

Conclusions: Female partners play a central and comprehensive support role as well as experience ongoing stress and burden related to survivors' cancer.

Interpretation: Future research and direct investigation may inform healthcare providers about caring for SMW and their families following breast cancer.

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