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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Finding Positive Meaning in the Experience of Breast Cancer

  • Author(s): Mitchell, Jill
  • et al.

In the U.S., one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Many of these women who are diagnosed with more localized disease will recover well and may even be cured with treatment. However for those women in whom the cancer metastasizes, or spreads to other areas of the body, the disease is no longer considered curable, and average life expectancy is only a few years. Along with the threat of early mortality, women with metastatic breast cancer may also struggle with the pain and disfigurement of toxic treatments, the frustration over time sacrificed to doctors’ appointments and treatment schedules, the anxiety of an endless barrage of scans and tests, and the fear of an increasing loss of control over their body and their life. In addition, the weight of financial concerns due to relentless medical bills, the stress of increased relationship turmoil, the loss of ability to work, and the threat to one’s self-identity are other challenges that cancer sometimes imposes. Nonetheless, despite such suffering and loss, roughly half of the women in my study also talked about how they had found positive meaning, benefits, or growth out of their experiences with cancer across multiple domains of their lives.

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