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Journey of Decision-making among a Sample of Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer and Living with a Non-Supportive or Abusive Partner


In the US, breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in women. When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer it is often expected that she will receive support from her partner. However, this may not always be the case as some women find that their partners are either non-supportive or abusive. This can have a profound effect on the decisions women make regarding their treatment. The aim of this study was to explore and describe the journey of decision-making among women diagnosed with breast cancer while living with a non-supportive or abusive partner. Despite the highly-stigmatized topic, multiple recruitment sites were utilized

to recruit eight women who were diagnosed with breast cancer, who had non-supportive or abusive partners, and who were willing to be interviewed one to two times. Techniques from Grounded Theory methodology, informed by Symbolic Interactionism were used for analyzing data for this Qualitative Descriptive study. Results showed that the lack of support in the women’s relationships proved to be stressful, confusing, and disheartening. It affected their sense of self and heightened their need to rely on other inner and outer sources of support in multiple ways that were unique to each woman’s situation. However, despite a potentially fatal diagnosis and a non-supportive partner, participants were resourceful, found ways to stand up for themselves, and persevered. The women provided insight into how they utilized strategies that helped them work through a process to make decisions regarding treatment and to “move on” with their lives. Results are useful for clinicians’ ability to understand how a non-supportive or abusive partner may impact decisions made by a woman diagnosed with breast cancer and how to help with their processes of “moving on” after treatment.

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