The Experience of Women Receiving Brachytherapy for Gynecologic Cancer

Karima Velji

Margaret Fitch

brachytherapy, gynecologic cancer

Purpose/Objectives: To explore and document the lived experience of receiving low-dose rate brachytherapy for gynecologic cancer.

Design: Qualitative method based on phenomenology.

Setting: Radiation treatment facility in a cancer-care setting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Sample: Ten women between the ages of 36 and 75 (mean = 59.2) receiving low-dose rate brachytherapy for cancer of the cervix or endometrium.

Methods: Verbatim data were analyzed manually using Giorgi's method of analyzing qualitative data.

Findings: Three themes emerged from the data: (a) women's experiences with brachytherapy were embedded within the complete context in which treatment was given, shaped by personal, environmental, and treatment-related factors, (b) the discomfort that women experienced during brachytherapy was perceived as a totality of symptoms including but not limited to pain, and (c) the brachytherapy experience was characterized by an intense focus on time and tensions embedded in issues related to time.

Conclusions: When dealing with the brachytherapy treatment, women are concerned with the context in which the treatment is provided and the care that is associated with the treatment. Different and unique strategies assist women to get through treatment. Supportive nursing interventions can be implemented easily in the nursing care plan for women undergoing brachytherapy.

Implications for Nursing Practice: The aspects of nursing care that women perceive as positive, such as competence level of the nurse, symptom management, and providing information in sensory terms, should be strengthened. Alternatively, aspects of nursing care that are perceived negatively by women should be changed. Nurses have to avoid situations that will prolong the time of brachytherapy treatment. Nurses should support women in using coping strategies that assist them in getting through the brachytherapy treatment.

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