African American Women's Experiences With the Initial Discovery, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Breast Cancer

Nancy R. Lackey

Marie F. Gates

Gwendolyn Brown

African American women, African American, breast neoplasms

Purpose/Objectives: To describe the experiences of African American women living with breast cancer following the primary diagnosis and while undergoing initial treatment.

Design: Phenomenologic.

Sample/Setting: 13 African American women (ages 30–66) purposefully selected from two oncology clinics in the mid-South.

Methods: Phenomenologic interviews (transcribed verbatim) and field notes were analyzed using Colaizzi’s method of phenomenologic description and analysis.

Findings: Experience Trajectory, Femininity, and Spirituality were the three major themes. The Experience Trajectory subthemes were finding the lump, getting the diagnosis, undergoing surgery and adjuvant treatment. The Femininity subthemes were loss of all or part of the breast, loss of hair, and sexual attractiveness to a man. Spirituality was reflected as a reliance on God.

Conclusions: Telling the story of their experience trajectory during their breast cancer experience is valuable in assessing African American women’s feelings, emotions, and fears of body changes that occur during surgery and treatment. Their spirituality helps them through this experience. Research involving both African American women and their partners would provide greater insight into specific relationship patterns and communication related to sexuality during this experience.

Implications for Nursing Practice: Nurses need to listen to the stories of African American women about the initial experience of discovery, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer so they can be more informed advocates for these women. African American women need more information from healthcare providers regarding the whole experience trajectory.

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