Subjective lived experiences of women with early stage breast cancer in Cape Town
Breast cancer is a common cause of death among women worldwide. It has long been recognized as a major public health burden in high-income countries, however, the majority of cases are said to occur in low and middle-income countries, such as in South Africa. A breast cancer diagnosis and treatment heralds a series of frightening events and can be a traumatic experience. The manner in which women perceive and cope with their illness is predictive of emotional and physical health outcomes. It is thus imperative to explore the experiences of South African women, whose voices may have been silenced in the past. The purpose of my study was to explore the subjective lived experiences of women with early stage breast cancer undergoing treatment. The objectives of the study were to; explore the emotional experiences of women with early stage breast cancer undergoing treatment and secondly to explore how women perceive their bodies through their experience of early stage breast cancer while undergoing treatment. Phenomenology was used as the theoretical position conceptualising the study as well as the research design. This research study adopted a qualitative approach utilising in-depth face to face semi-structures interviews for collecting data. The participants were selected through purposive sampling and comprised six women aged between 30 and 40 who are undergoing treatment for early stage breast cancer. The data was analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Emotions experienced were characterised by the shock of the diagnosis due to factors such as lack of family history and age. Participants reported positive changes and viewpoints which they gained through their breast cancer journey. Emotions were heightened during treatment due to the physical change experienced and the effects this had on family members and the general public. Furthermore, results indicated that participants, even though they discovered a new found love for life and for their wellbeing, neglected their emotional needs in order to protect family members. An additional reason for this neglect centered on the lack of understanding other individuals may have regarding the experiences of participants. Recommendations involves the encouragement of accessing counselling services and that interventions tailored to the needs of each patient especially according to age. All ethical considerations as stipulated by the University of the Western Cape were adhered to.