Women Treated for Breast Cancer Experiences of Chemotherapy-Induced Pain: Memories, Any Present Pain, and Future Reflections

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Abstract

Background:

Breast cancer survivors make up a growing population facing treatment that poses long-standing adverse effects including chemotherapy-related body function changes and/or pain. There is limited knowledge of patients’ lived experiences of chemotherapy-induced pain (CHIP).

Objective:

The aim of this study was to explore CHIP and any long-standing pain experiences in the lifeworld of breast cancer survivors.

Methods:

Fifteen women participated in a follow-up interview a year after having experienced CHIP. They were interviewed from a lifeworld perspective; the interviews were analyzed through guided phenomenology reflection.

Results:

A past perspective: CHIP is often described in metaphors, leads to changes in a patient’s lifeworld, and impacts lived time. The women become entirely dependent on others but at the same time feel isolated and alone. Existential pain was experienced as increased vulnerability. Present perspective: Pain engages same parts of the body, but at a lower intensity than during CHIP. The pain creates time awareness. Expected normality in relationships/daily life has not yet been achieved, and a painful existence emerges in-between health and illness. Future perspective: There are expectations of pain continuing, and there is insecurity regarding whom to turn to in such cases. A painful awareness emerges about one’s own and others’ fragile existence.

Conclusions:

Experiencing CHIP can impact the lifeworld of women with a history of breast cancer. After CHIP, there are continued experiences of pain that trigger insecurity about whether one is healthy.

Implications for Practice:

Cancer survivors would likely benefit from communication and information about and evaluation of CHIP.

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