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"Winging It": How Older Breast Cancer Survivors Persist With Aromatase Inhibitor Treatment.

  • Author(s): Brauer, Eden R
  • Ganz, Patricia A
  • Pieters, Huibrie C
  • et al.
Abstract

Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are an important and effective hormonal adjuvant treatment for early-stage breast cancer. Up to 50% of women stop AIs prematurely, missing a valuable therapeutic intervention.We used grounded theory methodology to conduct in-depth, semistructured interviews and analyze data among patients with breast cancer diagnosed at age 65 years or older who were receiving an AI. The goal of the interviews was to understand decision making regarding persisting with AIs. Interview transcripts were systematically analyzed to identify emergent categories and relationships.Interviews were conducted with 27 women. After completion of primary treatment, women in our sample found themselves "winging it" as they faced substantial struggles with infrequent support during this new phase of the cancer trajectory. Self-management of AI adverse effects occurred in the contexts of older age and early survivorship. "Bearing it" emerged as another important management process regarding the impact of AIs on quality of everyday life. The complex decision to persist with the AI involved weighing the possibility of a cancer-free future against the burden of adverse effects. Women relied on informal networks for support, rather than oncology providers, highlighting the need for practical self-management strategies. The notion of a tipping point in persistence revealed their susceptibility to early discontinuation.This study provides insight into potential decisional pathways leading to early discontinuation of AIs among older women with breast cancer. Better support is needed for these women.

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