“I Know Just How You Feel”: The Validity of Healthy Women's Perceptions of Breast-Cancer Patients Receiving Treatment


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Deanna L. Buick. Centre for Health Care Research, University of Brighton, 1 Great Wilkins, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9PM, United Kingdom. E-mail: D.Buick@brighton.ac.u.


The accuracy of healthy women's perceptions of how breast-cancer patients cope with treatment was assessed in this study. Standardized questionnaires measuring distress, coping, and illness perceptions were completed by 78 women undergoing postsurgical treatment for primary breast cancer. The patients' responses were then compared with assessments made by a matched community sample. The results showed a marked incongruity between healthy women's perceptions and actual patients' experiences of the disease and its treatment. Community women overestimated patients' distress, perceived the consequences of breast cancer to be more severe, and were more likely to believe that patients used denial and disengagement strategies. The discrepancy in findings has implications for the appropriateness of the support offered to patients by healthy women.