Women’s Barriers to Prevention of Lymphedema After Breast Surgery and Home Care Needs: A Qualitative Study

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Abstract

Background:

The incidence of lymphedema occurring after breast surgery poses a high risk of public health. Women undergoing breast surgery have been shown to experience an uncertainty about the prognosis and outcomes of the treatment of lymphedema.

Objective:

The aim of this study was to determine women’s barriers to prevention of lymphedema after breast surgery and home care needs.

Methods:

In this qualitative study using semistructured in-depth interviews, 14 women with lymphedema selected through purposeful sampling were interviewed. Data were analyzed using inductive content analysis techniques.

Results:

The following themes were identified and defined: “lymphedema development,” “coping with lymphedema,” and effects of lymphedema on life.” Subthemes were also identified.

Conclusion:

This study revealed physical, psychological, and social difficulties in the consistent use of behaviors to manage lymphedema. It turned out that the women were not provided with sufficient information and counseling before lymphedema development. Familial support and meeting with women experiencing the same disease were found to have a positive effect on management of lymphedema.

Implications for Practice:

Management of lymphedema should be initiated before surgery and continued even when treatment for the cancer is concluded. Patients should be offered information and monitored throughout their life. Individual methods of managing lymphedema should be determined in patients’ own home environments at the time of home visits. Families and social networks of women should also be involved. Support groups including patients with similar problems are recommended to create awareness and motivation.

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