Palliative and Supportive Care

Original Articles

Experiences from having breast cancer and being part of a support group. Notes written in diaries by women during radiotherapy

Sofia Emilssona1, Ann-Christine Svenska2, Karolina Olssona2, Jack Lindha3 c1 and Inger Östera4

a1 Mellannorrlands Hospice AB, Sundsvall, Sweden

a2 Department of Oncology, Umeå University Hospital, Umeå, Sweden

a3 Department of Radiation Sciences, Oncology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

a4 Department of Nursing, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

Abstract

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences of breast cancer patients participating in a support group.

Method: This study explores 28 stories of women with breast cancer as expressed through written diaries. Diaries were written during a 5-week period in parallel with radiotherapy and participation in a support group in a hospital. Answers to six open-ended evaluative questions concerning the support group were included in the majority of the written diaries. A qualitative content analysis was used to identify themes.

Results: Three themes were constructed during the analysis: “positive group development.” “Inhibited group development.” and “the individual living with the disease.” Hopes and fears for the future in regards to illness and getting better, the value of family and friends, and feelings related to daily life with breast cancer such as fatigue and changes in body image were also expressed in the diaries.

Significance of results: The findings suggest that the women with breast cancer found it valuable to be able to share experiences with other women in a similar situation in the context of a support group. Being part of such a group provided a space and an opportunity for reflection.

(Received February 10 2011)

(Accepted April 09 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jack Lindh, Department of Radiation Sciences, Oncology, University of Umeå, S-90185 Umeå, Sweden. E-mail: jack.lindh@onkologi.umu.se