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15 February 2011

What is it really like living with breast cancer?

How can we explain the different ways women react to having breast cancer and what effect does it really have on their lives? A new study is being carried out at The University of Nottingham which hopes to find the answers and find new ways of meeting the needs of patients once their treatment is over.

Image:  Breast Cancer Awareness

Diane Trusson, a PhD student in the School of Sociology and Social Policy, wants to find women who are prepared to talk about their experience of being treated for early-stage breast cancer (ESBC) and what life has been like since their treatment finished.
Diane said: “Although there is a growing amount of research into breast cancer, much of this work does not address the way that women feel, or their experiences following diagnosis. The main aim is to explore how women who have had breast cancer may have changed behaviourally, physically, mentally and in terms of self perception, as a result of having had a life-threatening disease which may or may not reoccur.”
Diane, who is from Beeston in Nottingham, wants to recruit volunteers who are prepared to talk about their experiences of living with breast cancer. Her research will explore how women come to terms with being diagnosed with breast cancer in view of the disruption that illness often causes to lives and identities.
The aim of this research is to provide a deeper understanding of what it means to women in today’s society to experience ESBC or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) — one of the most common types of non-invasive breast cancer.
The work will build on a previous study which looked at the meaning of survivorship for women who had completed treatment for breast cancer and how they are portrayed.
Diane said: “Women are described as ‘survivors’ or as ‘fighting’ cancer. These social expectations of a positive response to the disease can be perceived as unhelpful to women who may be finding it difficult to cope and perhaps feel depressed, angry or fearful of recurrence. By interviewing at various times post-treatment, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of how women adjust to life after treatment for cancer and if and how they view the world differently as a result of their experience.”
Participants will be able to talk anonymously about their experiences in their own way and using their own words in unstructured interviews in a location of their choice.
Previous research suggests that constructing a narrative may provide a way of creating meaning out of a traumatic event, therefore participation in the research may be beneficial to the interviewee. However, if this process raises issues that the participant wishes to pursue then they will be provided with contact details for organisations that can help such as: Breast Cancer Care and Macmillan Cancer Support.
If you want to help you can email Diane,, or write to her at The School of Sociology and Social Policy, The University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD.

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