Breast Cancer Survivors' Perception of Survivorship

Patricia I. Documet

Jeanette M. Trauth

Meghan Key

Jason Flatt

Jan Jernigan

breast neoplasms, survivors
ONF 2012, 39(3), 309-315. DOI: 10.1188/12.ONF.309-315

Purpose/Objectives: To explore (a) how women who were diagnosed with breast cancer (BC) defined themselves as survivors and when this occurred, and (b) the types of benefits they derived from their experiences.

Research Approach: An exploratory, qualitative approach.

Participants: 112 women who had BC (response rate = 70%).

Setting: Participants were recruited from two cancer survivor organizations in a northeastern U.S. city.

Methodologic Approach: Responses to open-ended questions in telephone interviews were examined by age at diagnosis using thematic analysis. Chi squares were used to conduct analyses by age (younger than 51 years; aged 51 years or older).

Main Research Variables: Meaning of survivorship, defining moment, benefits derived from surviving from breast cancer.

Findings: Participants' perceptions of survivorship included two main components, a defining moment and the meaning attached to being a survivor. Becoming a survivor is an active process, except in the case of those participants who realized they were survivors when informed by a third party. Meanings differed by age at diagnosis. Most participants listed at least one benefit from surviving cancer.

Conclusions: The definitions of survivorship and benefits outlined here suggest that many positive aspects of the survivorship experience exist that may inform future interventions' designs.

Implications for Practice: Providers should acknowledge the strength survivors show in the process of meaning-making and finding benefits in their adverse experiences. The use of expressive and supportive interventions may hold promise for women facing difficulties in coping with their diagnosis.

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