A qualitative study of rural women's views for the treatment of early breast cancer

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Abstract

Aim

Identify what factors rural women perceived to influence their surgical choice for EBC.

Background

Higher rates of mastectomy still remain for women with early breast cancer (EBC) in rural areas. While access to radiotherapy is a commonly identified barrier, there is growing debate around other factors which are also important influences on surgical choice.

Methods

Qualitative study with 70 interviews with women diagnosed with EBC in rural Gippsland, Australia. Twenty-nine women had a mastectomy and 41 had breast conserving surgery (BCS).

Results

Patient led psychosocial and surgeon led factors influenced surgical choice. Psychosocial factors were a greater influence for the mastectomy group. These included a high fear of cancer recurrence and radiotherapy, negative views of the body and breast, a family history of cancer, wanting to avoid the negative treatment experiences they had seen significant others go through, and not wanting to travel for treatment. Surgeon led factors were a greater influence for the BCS group, in particular, the direct recommendation made by the surgeon for BCS. For both groups, urgency to act was a shared psychosocial factor. Trust and confidence in the expertise and reputation of the surgeon and their consultation style were surgeon led factors shared by the groups.

Conclusions

To ensure women achieve the best treatment outcome, patients and clinicians need to work together to identify how important and influential the various factors are for the women and, if necessary, to seek support to ensure informed decisions are made.

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