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The Experience of Initiating Oral Adjuvant Treatment for Estrogen Receptor–Positive Breast Cancer

Jane Flanagan

Devin Tetler

Loren Winters

Kathryn E. Post

Karleen R. Habin

breast cancer, comorbidities, biologic-based therapies, nursing research, qualitative
ONF 2016, 43(4), E143-E152. DOI: 10.1188/16.ONF.E143-E152

Purpose/Objectives: To describe the experience of women with estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer who are initiating oral adjuvant therapy and to determine what they describe as facilitating and/or hindering this experience.

Research Approach: Qualitative inquiry.

Setting: Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston.

Participants: 14 women aged 48–81 years.

Methodologic Approach: Qualitative, descriptive study using content analysis.

Findings: Five themes were identified: (a) feeling overwhelmed and abandoned despite highly skilled medical care, (b) processing the trauma and putting it in perspective, (c) keeping up the facade while feeling vulnerable, (d) needing to connect cautiously, and (e) moving toward healing and being aware.

Conclusions: Each participant who was initiating oral adjuvant treatment described many unmet needs. Women who were caregivers, were older aged, had several chronic illnesses, and were on several medications reported more difficulty transitioning to oral adjuvant therapy.

Interpretation: This study suggests that nurses need to collaborate with other members of the healthcare team to assess the needs of and provide comprehensive care to women initiating oral adjuvant therapy. This is particularly true for women who are older aged, self-reported caregivers, and on several medications, and who have chronic comorbid conditions.

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