Women's experiences of social support during the first year following primary breast cancer surgery

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Abstract

Aim:

The aim of this qualitative follow-up study was to describe women's individual experiences of social support during their first year after primary breast cancer surgery.

Method:

Individual semi-structured interviews with 10 women 1 year after surgery analysed by Kvales' meaning condensation method.

Findings:

Sharing experiences, being understood as an individual, continuity, and information and explanations were themes identified. Sharing mutual experiences increased the women's knowledge regarding cancer, increased experience of support and minimised rumination. After 1 year, the women felt that the network around them had ‘normalised’ and was less supportive. Being seen as a person, not as ‘a diagnosis being treated’, and continuity of professional support were important, giving feelings of security and trust. The women felt uncertainty after loss of professional support post-treatment. Information and explanations regarding treatment and treatment-related problems were essential.

Conclusions:

Mutual sharing of experiences is an important part of social support. Continuity, availability, information and respect were essential aspects of experienced professional support.

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