The experience of breast cancer survivorship: A phenomenological study

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Georgie Labadie, Committee Chair


The specific aim of the study was to gain an understanding of the meaning of the everyday experiences of breast cancer survivorship. The research question was: (1) "What is the essential structure or meaning of the lived experience of breast cancer survivorship?" Research in the area of breast cancer survivorship is limited and provides minimal understanding of the survival experience less than 5 years post-treatment. Descriptive phenomenology as described by Colaizzi (1978) provided the methodology for the study. Fifteen women who had completed breast cancer treatment within the last 5 years and were free of cancer at the time of the study were asked to describe the experience of breast cancer survivorship during tape recorded interviews. The researcher's assumptions and biases about breast cancer survival were bracketed prior to beginning the interviews, and efforts were made to maintain the bracketing throughout data collection and analysis. Through reflection on the lived experience data, essential themes and meaning of the experience of breast cancer survivorship emerged. The meaning of the experience of breast cancer survivorship includes plaguing thoughts about cancer recurrence, changes in family relationships, alterations in self-image and femininity, thoughts about mortality, changes in life priorities, and a strong commitment to help other women with breast cancer. The exhaustive description of breast cancer survivorship which emerged from this study and the methodology employed facilitates the care perspective towards breast cancer survivorship which emphasizes an understanding of the well-being of the person and the subjective meanings of the experience within the context of cancer survival. The findings suggest that there are commonalities among the experiences of women who experience survivorship and these experiences provide the opportunity for personal growth and gratitude for life. Description of the experiences of breast cancer survivorship is critical as more women survive breast cancer. The study adds to the depth of understanding of survivorship, articulated in the descriptions by women who are having the experience.


Health Sciences, Nursing

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