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Self as Female: Womens' Experiences Following Treatment for Breast Cancer or Uterus Cancer

Issue: Vol.4, No.2 - April 2005

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  1. Dr Carina Bertero
    Associate Professor, Department of Medicine and Care, Division of Nursing Science; Faculty of Health Sciences, Linkoping University

The purpose of the present study was to identify and describe the impact of breast cancer or uterus cancer from the perspective of the women's lived experiences, on their body image and intimate Relationships. Eighteen women diagnosed with these forms of cancer were interviewed. Verbal transcripts were analysed using an interpretive phenomenological approach influenced by Heidegger, i.e understanding something as something. Self as female emerged as the principal theme, which is turn, was influenced by four minor themes; existential fear, loss of female attraction, changed emotions and
sensations, and intimacy or concern. Existential fear showed that the women were more preoccupied with the potential fatal nature of the cancer that had been diagnosed than they were with the implications of the treatment and its effects on their body image. Loss of female attraction identified concerns about loss of fertility and anxiety about their desirability as a sexual partner. This theme illuminated both apparent and invisible loss of female attraction. Changed emotions and sensations showed that in the area of sexuality/intimate relationships some of the women experienced changed emotions and changed perceptions with respect to physical touch but also changed feelings and desire. Finally intimacy and concern revealed that the women include not only include physical pleasure but also a sense of themselves as women in the context of their lives, their relationships, and their emotions. As nursing practice continues to address issues of breast cancer and/ or uterus cancer across the care continuum, nurses could significantly improve women's body image and facilitate the women's intimate relationships by addressing these aspects. The nurse is in unique position to provide the reliable resources the woman needs during this revolutionary time in her life.

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