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Older Breast Cancer Survivors' Symptom Beliefs

Heather Rhea Royer
Cynthia H. Phelan
Susan M. Heidrich
ONF 2009, 36(4), 463-470 DOI: 10.1188/09.ONF.463-470

Purpose/Objectives: To use Leventhal's Common Sense Model (CSM) to describe older breast cancer survivors' symptom representations, symptom management strategies, and perceived barriers to symptom management.

Design: A secondary analysis was conducted using data from three pilot studies that tested a theory-based intervention to improve symptom management in older breast cancer survivors.

Setting: Advanced practice nurses conducted open-ended interviews with older breast cancer survivors either in their homes or via telephone.

Sample: Participants were recruited from the community, an oncology clinic, and a state tumor registry. The women (N = 61, X age = 69.5) were an average of 4.7 years after breast cancer diagnosis and reported an average of 17 symptoms.

Methods: Content analysis was conducted with field notes taken during baseline interviews.

Main Research Variables: Symptom representations, symptom management strategies, and perceived barriers to symptom management.

Findings: Women described their symptoms as chronic, incurable, and uncontrollable, with multiple causes (usually not aging) and numerous negative consequences. Women described an average of six symptom management strategies, most typically self-care. The most frequent barrier to symptom management was communicating with healthcare providers.

Conclusions: The CSM is a useful framework for understanding the symptom beliefs of older breast cancer survivors.

Implications for Nursing: Addressing women's beliefs and barriers may result in better communication with healthcare providers and more effective interventions for symptom management.

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