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African American Women’s Recollected Experiences of Adherence to Breast Cancer Treatment

Sue P. Heiney
DeAnne K. Hilfinger Messias
Tisha M. Felder
Kenneth W. Phelps
Jada C. Quinn
ONF 2017, 44(2), 217-224 DOI: 10.1188/17.ONF.217-224

Purpose/Objectives: To explore African American women’s recollected experiences of breast cancer treatment.


Research Approach: Qualitative description and narrative analysis.


Setting: South Carolina Oncology Associates, an outpatient oncology clinic serving rural and urban populations.


Participants: 16 African American women with breast cancer previously enrolled in the control arm (n = 93) of a completed randomized, controlled trial. 


Methodologic Approach: Feminist narrative analysis of in-depth individual interviews.


Findings: The authors identified three themes within the African American breast cancer survivors’ recollected experiences of treatment adherence: Embarking With Trust, Moving on Down the Road, and Being Actively Involved in Decision Making.


Interpretation: Although little evidence was presented of shared decision making with providers, patients were committed to completing the prescribed therapies. The narratives highlighted the value of in-depth examination of patients’ perspectives, particularly among minority and underserved groups. With the exception of voicing personal choice of surgical treatment, the women trusted providers’ recommendations with a resolve to “just do it.” Although trust may enhance treatment adherence, it may also reflect power differentials based on gender, race, education, and culture.


Implications for Nursing: Nurses should listen to patients describe their experience with cancer treatment and compare the themes from this study with their patients’ story. This comparison will help nurses support patients through various aspect of diagnosis and treatment.

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