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To feel like an outsider: focus group discussions regarding the influence on sexuality caused by breast cancer treatment
Linköping University, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Nursing Science. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
Centrum för genusvetenskap, Lunds Universitet.
Linköping University, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Nursing Science. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1588-135X
2011 (English)In: European Journal of Cancer Care, ISSN 0961-5423, E-ISSN 1365-2354, Vol. 20, no 6, 728-737 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aftermath of breast cancer treatment, especially the sexual side effects, appears to be a neglected issue in developed society. The purpose of this study was to explore how middle-aged women treated for a breast cancer experienced their sexual identity connected to the community norms and values in the society as a whole. Three focus group interviews were conducted, with a total of 12 women. The discussions were analysed using qualitative content analysis. The main theme to feel like an outsider symbolises the womens situation after breast cancer treatment. They experienced their body in a wholly new unfamiliar way, which affected their sexuality in a deep and profound way. This feeling affected their female roles and overshadowed earlier experiences in life. All their female roles were suddenly vague and this was expressed in various ways across each of the four subthemes: to feel different, the unruly body, eroticism is not what it used to be and re-evaluating. From a nursing perspective, there appears to be a definite challenge to identify the womens own unique sexual needs in the rehabilitation transition and to use the skills from all team professionals to improve sexual health in this context.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Blackwell , 2011. Vol. 20, no 6, 728-737 p.
Keyword [en]
breast cancer, femininity, qualitative content analysis, sexuality
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-71684DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2354.2011.01239.xISI: 000296271300005OAI: diva2:452798
Funding agencies|Skaraborg Institute for Research and Development||Research and Development Unit at Skaraborgs Hospital||Faculty of Health Sciences, Linkoping University||Available from: 2011-10-31 Created: 2011-10-31 Last updated: 2013-09-12
In thesis
1. Sexuality in the aftermath of breast and prostate cancer: Gendered experiences
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sexuality in the aftermath of breast and prostate cancer: Gendered experiences
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Sexuality is a sensitive topic in health care and is often interpreted through a natural scientific lens as just corresponding to sexual dysfunction and fertility problems. The purpose of this thesis was to describe sexuality and its outcomes in two cancer populations. Women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer in all stages were invited to participate. In this thesis, these two populations are restricted to age groups between 45 and 65 years, since there are reasons to believe that younger people are more vulnerable to sexuality changes. Lifeworld, gender, and sexuality are three concepts of importance in this thesis and they are used from the viewpoint of nursing care.

Phenomenological interviews (I, III) and focus group interviews (II, IV) were carried out with a total number of 46 informants. The EPP-method (Empirical Phenomenological Psychological) was used (I, III) in order to grasp the lived experience, and qualitative content analysis was used to analyse the seven focus groups (II, IV).

The lifeworld experiences of those women and men were comparable. The changes brought by the cancer and its treatment were a threat to their very existence, their existential base of knowledge had gone and alienation occurred (I, III). For the women, this was illustrated through the metaphor of a bird which is pinioned and unable to fly anymore. For the men it was expressed in the essential meaning “to lose the elixir of life”. Both women and men suffered, sexuality changed from one day to another and they handled it individually. Changed body appearance, and feeling old and unattractive were, for the women, the dominating features, whilst for the men changed desire and erection problems were their main concerns. The findings from the group discussions (II, IV) elucidate the gendered differences in these two contexts. The aim of the women was to look healthy and attractive and for the men the ability to have an erection was important. Neither of these two groups of people was able to meet their aims. On the other hand, being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease they were not in a position to claim preserved sexuality. This opens up existential questions that need to be confirmed in health care. To succeed in this, a change of perspective is required in health care. It should be possible to use human science to the same extent as natural science in health care.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2011. 71 p.
Linköping University Medical Dissertations, ISSN 0345-0082 ; 1263
Breast cancer, prostate cancer sexuality, gender, lifeworld, psycho social oncology
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-72339 (URN)978-91-7393-064-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-12-16, Berzeliussalen, Universitetssjukhuset, Campus US, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2011-11-25 Created: 2011-11-25 Last updated: 2013-09-12Bibliographically approved

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