The role of significant others in the care of women with breast cancer


Lisbet Lindholm, Department of Caring Science, Åbo Akademi University, Vasa, Finland. Email:


This study seeks to gain knowledge of how significant others experience the nursing care of women with breast cancer and what their own caring needs might be. The overall research design is a clinical application research within the hermeneutic tradition. Thirty-seven significant others have contributed their own narratives about the care on the basis of open, structured questions. The narratives have been submitted to an analysis of contents. The result shows that significant others have no given place in nursing care. Their place in nursing care is to look on, be present or be ignored. No matter what their place is, the significant others feel a need for caring conversations and information in an ethical manner. The faith and trust of significant others, the sharing, sense of communion and the information about woman's illness strengthen the significant others' own vitality. Their inmost desire concerns the sensitiveness of caregivers with regard to the woman's as well as the significant others' personal needs. If space is allowed and this desire meets with response, significant others can constitute a source of strength in the care of the woman suffering from breast cancer.