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“It is not just any pill”—Women’s experiences of endocrine therapy after breast cancer surgery

Journal article
Authors Susanne Ahlstedt Karlsson
Catarina Wallengren Gustafsson
Roger Olofsson Bagge
Ingela Henoch
Published in European Journal of Cancer Care
Volume 28
Issue 3
ISSN 0961-5423
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Surgery
Institute of Health and Care Sciences
Language en
Keywords breast cancer, focus group, inductive content analysis, Tamoxifen, women’s experience
Subject categories Cancer and Oncology


Objective: For patients diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer, endocrine therapy (ET) is usually prescribed to reduce recurrence and mortality rates. Despite the benefits, compliance with treatment varies. The aim of this study was to provide qualitative data about women's experiences with ET after breast cancer surgery. Methods: Twenty-five women, treated with Tamoxifen after breast cancer surgery, were interviewed in seven focus groups. Six open-ended questions were used to explore their experiences. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using inductive content analysis. Results: The analysis resulted in three categories that described the women's experiences: the treatment “creates discomfort”; “promotes levels of management”; and “causes feelings of abandonment”. Women's experiences of treatment could at first glance be seen as positive, as perceived protection, but after further analysis, a deeper meaning was identified: protection with reservation. When experiencing discomfort, the women tried to manage the situation, although the mode of management sometimes varied. The women reported that they needed support, but when the support did not appear, they felt as though they had been abandoned. Moreover, knowledge about side effects became an obstacle, as it could create fear of more severe symptoms. They also described that their disease was perceived by healthcare professionals as “cancer light”. Conclusion: The information needs to be customised specifically to each person. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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