Meaning of illness for women with breast cancer


Professor K A Luker, Department of Nursing, Wheland Building, PO Box 147, University of Liverpool Liverpool L69 3BX., England


The meaning that women with breast cancer ascribe to their disease may well have an impact on the effectiveness of coping strategies used to come to terms with breast cancer Health rare professionals need to know what meanings women with breast cancer are ascribing to their disease if they are to identify maladaptive coping strategies and ensure that women receive the support that they need in order to promote physical and psychological recovery This study involved assessing meaning of illness for a group of women with breast cancer at two points in time, the time of diagnosis and a mean of 21 months from diagnosis The eight meanings of illness devised by Lipowski were depicted by the following words challenge, enemy, punishment, loss, strategy, relief, weakness and value The most popular choice of meaning for the women was challenge, although some women's choices indicated that maladaptive coping strategies were being used The implications of the study for nurses and other health care professionals are discussed