Evaluating the self-assessed support needs of women with breast cancer
Aims of the study. The first aim of the study was to identify the self-assessed support needs of women with breast cancer at various points of illness and, secondly, to establish if these needs formed clusters which could provide the basis for developing a standardized scale of needs for use by breast care teams in the evaluation of care.
Background. It has been found that support given to women with breast cancer has a positive effect upon their reactions to the illness and may even prolong their survival. Given that breast cancer affects a large number of women it is obviously important that those affected receive, in addition to the best available medical treatment, the type of support that best meets their needs. This study aimed to provide information on the impact of breast cancer and the need for various types of support by examining women’s own assessment of their needs at different stages of their illness.
Design and methods. A purposive sample of 12 women with a diagnosis of breast cancer was selected in one health authority in England, United Kingdom (UK). Women selected represented a wide age range (between 26 and 58), were married or in long-term cohabiting relationships and were at different points on the illness trajectory. Women were invited to take part in a semi-structured interview about their experiences of breast cancer. The data from these interviews were analysed using the software package Qualitative Solutions and Research, Nonnumerical Data Indexing, Searching and Theorizing (QSR*NUDIST). Following this content analysis, a questionnaire was formulated which divided statements into seven categories: diagnosis, treatment, support, femininity and body image, family and friends, information and after care, to be rated on a Likert scale ranging from ‘of no importance’ to ‘extremely important’. Questionnaire data were analysed by means of a one-way analysis of variance (for three independent variables) or t-test for two independent variables.
Results. The questionnaire was sent to 971 women and achieved a response rate of 50·4%. The mean score for statements of need reached the level of point 4 on the Likert scale (important) with three exceptions: having professional help with family problems and domestic upheaval, coping with feelings of anger and dealing with the question ‘why me?’
Conclusion. With the above three exceptions, women experienced a high level of need associated with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Studies of this kind should enable resources to be targeted to areas of highest need.