Awaiting Diagnosis of Breast Cancer: Strategies of Enduring for Preserving Self

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To explicate the emotional experiences of women undergoing breast cancer diagnosis who are waiting for the results of breast biopsy.

Research Approach:

Glaserian Grounded Theory.


Urban area in western Canada.


37 women aged 32-76 years. The breast cancer diagnosis was positive for 11 women, negative for 24 women, and two results were unclear.

Methodologic Approach:

Unstructured, recorded telephone interviews.


Undergoing breast cancer diagnosis is a profoundly distressing experience dictated by diagnostic processes and procedures. Women rapidly transitioned from wellness to frightening phases of facing cancer to continuing terror during the testing phase. While waiting to hear results, women controlled their emotions, which enabled them to get through the experience and highlighted the protective function of enduring and its necessity for survival. The basic social psychological process, preserving self, is the outcome of enduring.


A mid-range theory, Awaiting Diagnosis: Enduring for Preserving Self, was developed. This theory explicates the emotional responses of women who were undergoing diagnosis for breast cancer and provides a theoretical behavioral basis for responding to cues and signals of suffering.


The Praxis Theory of Suffering enables nurses to recognize and respond according to the behaviors of suffering, and to endure with healthy, adaptive, and normalizing behaviors that enable preserving self.

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