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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • mother–child relationship;
  • culture;
  • oncology;
  • support systems

Abstract

Objective

For families with dependent children, the situational crisis of a cancer diagnosis may compound the developmental task of parenting. This study aimed to explore the impact of breast cancer on Korean mothers and their children following diagnosis.

Methods

Korean women diagnosed with breast cancer at 50 years or younger more than a year ago were recruited by posting announcements at a breast cancer clinic and through referrals and snowball sampling. A one-time in-depth interview ranging from 60 to 90 min was conducted and data were transcribed verbatim for content analysis.

Results

Five themes emerged from the data: (1) The delicate balance of being able to focus on self, which also was a conflicting factor in their relationship with children; (2) The continuing challenge of taking care of children, which was closely linked to supports, health condition, and cultural notions of parenting and lingering stigma; (3) The importance of informing children in a timely manner; (4) An overall shift in attitudes towards raising children as independent beings; and (5) Relinquishing and re-envisioning the future for their children and themselves.

Conclusions

Breast cancer brings new challenges in mother–child relationships with culturally framed issues. Findings can guide healthcare providers in giving relevant anticipatory guidance for women diagnosed with breast cancer and in considering family-focused psychosocial and behavioral interventions for families with breast cancer.

Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.