Breast Cancer Survivors’ Unmet Needs After Completion of Radiation Therapy Treatment

Michelle Pembroke

Julie Bradley

Lynne S. Nemeth

radiation therapy, breast cancer, survivorship care plans, Patient education
ONF 2020, 47(4), 436-445. DOI: 10.1188/20.ONF.436-445

Purpose: To identify the unmet needs of breast cancer survivors after radiation therapy.

Participants & Setting: Patients who received radiation therapy for unilateral breast cancer with six months or longer of follow-up and exhibited no disease progression were eligible for selection to a study conducted at an outpatient radiation therapy academic practice in the southeastern United States.

Methodologic Approach: A qualitative descriptive study was undertaken using semistructured interviews, framed by the five domains of the Survivor Unmet Needs Survey and analyzed using an iterative inductive and deductive process.

Findings: Of the 24 invited patients, 17 agreed to the interview (including one male patient). Themes emerged from the emotional, relationships, and information needs domains: (a) the struggle with adapting to body image changes; (b) living with the fear of recurrence; (c) the unexpected impact of radiation dermatitis; and (d) the need for education to prepare for radiation therapy.

Implications for Nursing: Healthcare providers should perform a comprehensive needs assessment for patients with breast cancer receiving radiation therapy. Self-management assessment instruments may address patients’ confidence in managing all phases of radiation therapy side effects.

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