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Keywords:

  • breast neoplasm;
  • survivors;
  • psychological adaptation;
  • social adjustment

Abstract

Background: While much is now known about breast cancer survivors' long-term health, quality of life, and psychological state, relatively little is known about the period immediately following completion of treatment, when women transition out of the role of breast cancer ‘patient’ to life as ‘survivor’.

Objective: To explore women's fears regarding risk of cancer recurrence, sense of loss of medical monitoring, and social support from health-care providers and other patients, and the strategies they use to cope with these issues.

Method: Focus group interviews were conducted with women who had completed adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation for new stage I or II breast cancer in the prior 12 months. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed, and analyzed using a constant comparative analysis approach.

Results: Of 216 women identified as eligible, over half (155) were reached by telephone and invited to participate. Of those invited, 47 (30%) agreed. Findings suggest that while women acknowledge positive life changes as a result of the cancer experience, emotional and physical stresses are prevalent following the completion of treatment.

Conclusion: The period of time when women who have been treated for breast cancer transition to life without treatment presents numerous emotional and physical challenges. By illuminating patients' experience during this transition period, this study provides insights into the development of interventions to support women after treatment. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.