Making sense of turmoil: how women reconcile their emotional response to discovery of a potential breast cancer symptom

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O'Mahony, Máirín
Hegarty, Josephine
Rooney, Vivien M.
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Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.
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Background: Breast cancer continues to be a major public health problem for women. Early detection and treatment are key to improved outcomes. Whereas most women seek help promptly, some postpone seeking help for self-discovered breast symptoms. Investigation of women’s help-seeking behavior and the associated influencing factors on self-discovery of a breast symptom were sought. Objectives: The aim of this article is to report the qualitative data from women who had self-discovered a breast symptom. Methods: Women (n = 167) with a self-discovered breast symptom (who were part of a large quantitative correlational study) commented in an open-ended question on their overall experience. Comments were analyzed using Discourse Analysis. Results: Four linked discourses were identified: (1) “being and remaining normal,” (2) “emotion,” (3) “becoming and being abnormal,” and (4) “rationality.” A sidelined discourse of emotion is drawn on to defer taking action based on rational knowledge. Conclusion: The tension between discourses “emotion” and “rationality” further informs our understanding of women’s help-seeking behavior following self-discovered symptoms. Findings provide a deeper understanding of the emotional aspects of women’s experience around symptom discovery. Implications: for Practice Findings will be of benefit to all healthcare professionals involved in assessment and screening of breast changes suggestive of breast cancer. They provide a novel insight into the meaning of breast cancer, its diagnosis and treatment, and how this impacts women’s emotions as they await consultation in a breast clinic.
Help-seeking behavior , Patient delay , Self , Diagnosis , Knowledge , Awareness , Barriers , England , Sample , Breast cancer , Discourse analysis , Oncology , Qualitative , Self-discovered symptom
O'Mahony, M., Hegarty, J. and Rooney, V. M. (2018) 'Making sense of turmoil: how women reconcile their emotional response to discovery of a potential breast cancer symptom', Cancer Nursing, 41(6), pp. 513-519. doi:10.1097/NCC.0000000000000548
© 2018, Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved. This document is the Accepted Manuscript version of a Published Work that appeared in final form in Cancer Nursing. To access the final edited and published work see