Self-Care Among Female Cancer Survivors With Secondary Lymphedema: A Qualitative Study

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Abstract

Objectives:

To describe experiences about management of self-care in female cancer survivors with lymphedema.

Methodological approach:

Descriptive qualitative. We used individual open interviews 1.5-2 hours per individual about self-care related to secondary lymphedema. Eight female cancer survivors with secondary lymphedema participated. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. The content was analysed with a phenomenographical approach.

Findings:

Eight major themes emerged in the study: acceptance, recovery, physical activity, manageability, obstacles, social self-care, manual self-treatment, and ergonomics. The major themes were classified in subcategories.

Conclusion:

The study indicates that self-care involves physical, psychological, and social aspects, which mean that all perspectives should be included to help patients adhere to self-care. We need to understand that acceptance of having lymphedema can empower the patients to actually deal with self-care.

Interpretation:

We need to help the patients to talk about the obstacles with self-care. We could motivate them to see the good things about themselves when the self-care gives results and talk open minded with them about their frustration and guilt about not doing enough. A dialogue with others in the same situation, support from family and friends, and good advice from health care can empower the women, increase their self-esteem and make them feel good, and thus actually do the self-care.

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