Experiencing positive change after a diagnosis of breast cancer: a grounded theory analysis

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Abstract

Objective: Recent research recognises that many individuals experience positive psychological changes following a diagnosis of cancer. Such positive change is related to well-being, and some psychological interventions have promoted such change in women with breast cancer. However, neither qualitative nor quantitative studies have adequately explained the process of this change.

Method: This grounded theory study explored the process whereby positive emotional changes arose in 20 women (mean age 53 years) diagnosed with breast cancer.

Results: Most women experienced several positive changes as a result of their breast cancer. Analyses suggested that changed priorities in life and increased empathy for others emerged from the patients' reflections upon the suffering they endured during their illness. By contrast, increased self-confidence appeared to emerge from reflecting on how they managed their illness, and from concluding that they had been courageous in doing so. Factors promoting reflections included acceptance of breast cancer, ending treatments, and communication from others that emphasised rather than minimised the personal significance of cancer.

Conclusions: Findings extend current trauma-processing theories and can inform the timing and design of clinical interventions to improve adjustment to breast cancer. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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