Breast self-care practices in women with primary relatives with breast cancer

Karen I. Chalmers, Karen A. Luker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Breast cancer is a major threat to the health of women; two-thirds of women diagnosed with breast cancer are likely to die from the disease. In North America one woman in nine will experience breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. In the United Kingdom, the figure is somewhat lower, one in 12, and increasing. Increasing age and a family history of breast cancer are considered major risk factors. With no known primary prevention, early detection measures remain the main hope of decreasing mortality. Despite controversy surrounding the effectiveness of breast self-examination in reducing mortality, breast self-examination or breast self-'awareness' are advocated by health departments and voluntary cancer organizations. In this paper, breast self-care practices of women with a family history of breast cancer are reported. A descriptive study using in-depth semi-structured interviews as the prime data collection procedure was conducted with 55 women who had mothers, sister(s) or mothers and another primary relative with breast cancer. All interviews were tape recorded, transcribed and analysed using latent content analysis and constant comparison techniques. The findings revealed that women constructed their own personal meanings about the benefits and limitations of breast self-examination and their use of this self-care behaviour within their daily lives. Women used breast self-examination as a means of gaining control over their feelings of the threat of breast cancer. Women's earlier involvement with their relative during the cancer experience and their own processing of their personal risk for breast cancer influenced their breast self-care practices.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1212-1220
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1996


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