Living with Breast Cancer: Experiences and Perceptions of Women in Georgia
Dvaladze, Allison Lael Ekberg
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<italic>Aim</italic>: The purpose of this study is to improve understanding of the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes of women in Georgia living with breast cancer so as to identify barriers and facilitators to breast health care. <italic>Background</italic>: Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among women in Georgia and the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age (Serbanescu, 2009). The 2008 age-adjusted incidence and mortality rates for breast cancer among all women are 38.5 per 100,000 women and 19.5 per 100,000 women respectively (GLOBOCAN, 2008). Despite efforts to increase awareness of breast cancer and improve access to screening, there is a lack of information, data, and understanding of the challenges women face, how women are seeking care, interacting with the public health system and making decisions about breast health care. <italic>Method</italic>: This qualitative study uses thematic analysis to examine narratives from 19 in-depth semi-structured interviews with women diagnosed with breast cancer and one focus group discussion with 12 women. All data were collected in July 2011. <italic>Findings</italic>: Analysis of the data revealed three major factors influencing women's experiences, perceptions and breast health care seeking behavior in Georgia: beliefs, awareness and resources. These factors are used as categories to illustrate both barriers to detection and treatment as well as facilitators for survival. Barriers to detection and treatment were expressed in terms of fear, denial and disbelief while facilitators for survival were expressed in terms of faith, dignity and agency. <italic>Conclusion</italic>: As Georgia expands programs providing free breast cancer screening across the country, additional efforts should be made to educate women about risk factors for breast cancer and the benefits of screening. A majority of breast cancer survivors who participated in this study show a strong interest in educating women about the illness and would benefit from advocacy training to advance survivorship awareness and address barriers to care.
- Global health