Breast Cancer Narratives of Women without Partners
Ginter, Amanda Christine
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This qualitative study examined the experiences of female breast cancer patients without partners through the theoretical perspectives of ecological systems and health promotion. Family science literature addresses the importance of social support to quality of life. Women with breast cancer, the second most common cancer among women, often report that their main social support comes from intimate partners. If so, women without intimate partners may experience a health disparity that affects how they cope with their diagnosis and treatment. Although some studies indicate differences in the utilization of detection services between breast cancer patients with and without partners, there is a gap in the literature concerning the lived experience of patients without partners. Qualitative data were collected from 20 participants who did not have partners during diagnosis and treatment. Participants took part in one-time interviews conducted by the researcher. Phenomenology informed the methodology and thematic analysis. Findings included how breast cancer patients without partners adapted supportive networks to cope with the fears and frustrations of diagnosis and treatment; how these women sought health information and interacted with their medical teams; and how they made meaning of their relationship status within the context of their cancer experience. Based on findings from this study, family scientists and public health professionals and oncology care providers may have a better understanding of the specific concerns and experiences of breast cancer patients without partners. Additional implications of these findings for patients, practice, policy, and research will be discussed.