J Psychosoc Oncol. 2021 Apr 26:1-16. doi: 10.1080/07347332.2021.1914269. Online ahead of print.
PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES: With a growing number of young women with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) in the United States, it is important to consider how their diagnoses affect their relationships with others. The dual identities of being young and having MBC create unique challenges for women’s relationships. However, there is little extant research on the relationship experiences and needs of young women with MBC. The purpose of this study is to understand how young women describe their lived experiences with social and intimate relationships following their diagnoses of MBC.
DESIGN: A cross-sectional qualitative study with a life course theoretical framework was employed.
SAMPLE/PARTICIPANTS: Purposive sampling yielded nine participants who took part in semi-structured interviews. Phenomenology informed understanding of the lived experience of young women with MBC.
FINDINGS: The findings describe how young women with MBC made meaning out of their relationships to other people following their diagnoses, via themes of feeling alienated from other women with breast cancer, friendship trajectories, managing intimate relationships, how much to share with children, losing the dream of (more) children, and finding a voice in the MBC community.
CONCLUSION: MBC links participants’ lives to individuals from their preexisting relationships, new friendships, and the breast cancer community in irrevocable ways.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PSYCHOSOCIAL PROVIDERS: These findings present new information about the social and relationship needs of young women with MBC. Psychosocial providers and medical team members should not presume MBC patients’ disinterest in fertility preservation.