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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • mammography;
  • breast screening;
  • diagnosis;
  • information;
  • reassurance;
  • surgeons;
  • breast care nurse

The minimization to clients of screen-detected breast cancer: a qualitative analysis

Previous research has shown a low incidence of psychological morbidity in women with screen-detected breast cancer when compared to women with symptomatic breast cancer. Farmer et al. suggested that this might be due to the way the diagnosis of breast cancer is given to women with screen-detected disease. In order to test this hypothesis a detailed, in-depth, qualitative study was undertaken. The sample consisted of women with symptomatic breast cancer (n=5), women with screen-detected invasive breast cancer (n=6) and women with screen-detected in-situ breast cancer (n=5). The ‘bad news consultations’ with the surgeons, and subsequent meetings with the breast care nurses (BCN), were tape recorded. The women were also interviewed in their own homes within 7 days. The results suggested that the women with screen-detected breast cancer received more reassurance than the women with symptomatic breast cancer and that the benefits of breast screening were emphasized by the surgeons and the BCNs. This led to minimization of the significance of screen-detected disease. Women were found to draw on a new conceptual model of early curable breast cancer which appears to be associated with a low incidence of psychological morbidity.