Purpose/Objectives: To understand the experiences of women undergoing antiestrogen therapy (AET) to treat breast cancer.
Research Approach: Content analysis of tape-recorded focus group interviews.
Setting: Breast oncology center of a large medical center in the northeastern United States.
Participants: Purposive sample of 21 women undergoing AET to treat breast cancer.
Methodologic Approach: A nonexperimental qualitative, descriptive design using open-ended interviews and content analysis to isolate themes.
Main Research Variables: Women's experiences with AET.
Findings: Five themes were isolated and were focused on the overall experience of having breast cancer: symptoms related to AET, shared decision making, being strong for others, discovering new priorities, and recognizing vulnerability.
Conclusions: Oral therapies are an increasingly popular treatment option for various types of cancer, particularly in women with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer. Although this type of treatment has been efficacious in terms of disease-free and overall survival, women undergoing AET face many challenges related to treatment. Healthcare providers need to understand women's perceptions of AET and its effects as a first step in the process of developing interventions to improve care.
Interpretation: More research is needed to distinguish whether the presence of preexisting chronic illness, differences in type of AET, age, and ethnicity impact the overall experience of women on AET. Individual interviews may be necessary to fully explore the experience. Oncology nurses should implement surveillance care to explore the effects of AET on women with breast cancer.