Date of Award

2006

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Moira O'Connor

Second Advisor

Dr Colleen Fisher

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical review regarding the psychological implications of breast cancer, with a particular focus on younger women. In general due to their life stage, it appears that younger women have more problems with psychological adjustment to breast cancer compared to their older counterparts. Specifically, younger women appear to be more psychologically vulnerable to greater disruption to their daily lives due to the untimely nature of a breast cancer diagnosis, and have greater unmet practical needs, such as childcare. Limitations of the research literature are explored with specific attention to sample characteristics. Suggestions for future research are discussed based on methodological and conceptual issues. It is indicated that long-term outcome studies are required to strengthen the knowledge already attained within this field. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in females in Australia, and approximately 6% of women diagnosed with the disease are aged 40 or less. The experience of breast cancer in mothers of dependent children and the impact of breast cancer on mothers' identities was the focus of this study. Eight women, with current or non-recurrent breast cancer, were interviewed using multiple case qualitative methodology from a feminist perspective as a theoretical framework. Six themes emerged from conducting the research and were centred on the participants' identity as a mother: 'breast cancer challenged my role as a mother'; 'holding onto motherhood'; 'mothering beyond the grave'; 'I am a mother, not an object'; 'help me to be a mother' and; 'I am a mother and I am still here'. The research found that the needs of mothers living with breast cancer, namely lack of instrumental and emotional support, are not being appropriately or adequately met. The study has implications for health care professionals regarding the psychological and social impact of breast cancer on mothers.

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