Aim. The aim of this study was to generate insight into younger women’s experiences of recovery from breast cancer-related breast surgery and to contribute to the knowledge base for clinicians practising in this field.
Background. Despite the abundance of literature concerning the impact of breast cancer and breast loss on older women over 50 years of age, fewer studies have been conducted specifically with women younger than 50 years focusing on the recovery from breast cancer and related breast surgery. The effects of breast cancer on younger women differ to those of older women; younger women may have difficulty coming to terms with loss of fertility, perceived loss of femininity, sexuality and may experience body image disfigurement. Younger women may face these issues as a result of the treatment and surgery they have received to confine the breast cancer and attempt to improve their chances of survival.
Design. A phenomenological qualitative methodology was used to capture the true essence and lived experience of four Australian women under the age of 50, who had undergone surgery as a result of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Methods. Tape-recorded semi-structured face-to-face interviews.
Results. Thematic analysis revealed four major themes. These were ‘It absolutely encompassed me,’‘Being overwhelmed,’‘Living with fear and uncertainty’ and ‘Finding strength within.’
Conclusions. Findings of this study shed light on the experiences of recovery from breast cancer-related surgery in women under 50.
Relevance to clinical practice. This research study will assist clinicians in understanding the needs of younger women undergoing breast cancer-related breast surgery, who may require counselling in relation to fertility and relationship issues and assistance in coping with the demands of work and home life.