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A Qualitative Exploration of the Experiences of Lesbian and Heterosexual Patients With Breast Cancer

Alicia K. Matthews
Amy H. Peterman
Patty Delaney
Lyssa Menard
Dana Brandenburg
ONF 2002, 29(10), 1455-1462 DOI: 10.1188/02.ONF.1455-1462

Purpose/Objectives: To explore similarities and differences between lesbian and heterosexual survivors of breast cancer regarding cancer experiences, medical interactions related to cancer treatment, and quality of life (QOL).

Design: Qualitative study using focus groups.

Setting: Urban, community-based health center.

Sample: A convenience sample of lesbians (n = 13) and heterosexual women (n = 28) with a diagnosis of breast cancer within the past five years. Participants were recruited via posted advertisements.

Methods: Focus groups were conducted as part of a larger study exploring coping and adjustment in lesbian survivors of breast cancer. Transcribed focus group data were analyzed through thematic and representative case study methods.

Main Research Variables: Broad aspects of medical interactions and the patient-provider relationship that may be associated with improved QOL of lesbian and heterosexual patients with cancer.

Findings: Data suggested similarities between lesbians and heterosexual women in their overall QOL. However, differences did emerge between the groups. Lesbians reported higher stress associated with diagnosis, lower satisfaction with care received from physicians, and a trend toward lower satisfaction with the availability of emotional support.

Conclusions: Study findings have important implications for future research on adjustment and coping among lesbian patients with breast cancer and for the improvement of their mental and physical healthcare services.

Implications for Nursing: Study findings may help improve healthcare services for lesbians with cancer.

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