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Keywords:

  • Chinese;
  • family;
  • breast cancer;
  • beliefs;
  • adaptation

Abstract

In Chinese society the family not the individual is the basic structural and functional unit. Family beliefs significantly determine the impact of the illness, choice of coping patterns and ultimately the physical and behavioral reactions of both the women and their family members. The purpose of this study was to identify the family beliefs about breast cancer and how the beliefs influenced family functioning. Twenty Hong Kong Chinese families where the woman had breast cancer (N=59) were interviewed using a minimally structured schedule. Interpretive phenomenology was the qualitative methodology used in the study. Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics related to the process of understanding, application and interpretation was used to guide the analysis. Patterns of disharmony related to stress and emotion, diet, exercise, genetics and fate were evident in the family beliefs about the causes of breast cancer and guided the cognitive, emotional and behavioral strategies they adopted to negotiate the illness experience. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.