Breast cancer : the relationship between psyche and disease

This paper is the end product of a study on eight women who have had mastectomies. The study consisted of interviewing these ladies in a series of three to four sessions using a questionnaire I had created. The purpose of the study was to explore the possibility that there might be common themes in these women's personalities and life experiences. Five sections made up the questionnaire: self description, relationships, family background, somatic history - sexual development and the cancer experience. The paper begins with my personal reasons for conducting this study. The second component within the Introduction, Chapter 1, is some current facts on breast cancer. In the Review of Literature, Chapter 2, I present the research that has been conducted up to this point. I describe my data gathering process, developing the questionnaire, finding subjects and the interviewing in Chapter 3. The essence of the study is in Chapters 4 and 5. In Chapter 4, I present edited transcripts of the interviews. I conclude the paper in Chapter 5 with reporting on my findings and stating my personal relationship to cancer as it is today. The common themes among these women I studied are briefly as follows. These women describe themselves as “caring” and “good”. Their value systems center around their families. They consistently put their families' needs above their individual needs. Anger is usually invisible among these ladies, both sadness and anger being rarely expressed. In friendships outside of the family, the relationships rarely include self disclosure, and there was a fear of betrayal. These women did not receive affection from their mothers and their parents often had unhappy marriages. There was an extensive somatic history including other abnormal growths.