Niebauer, E. Fry, N., Auster-Gussman, L.A., Wahbeh, H. Patient Perspectives on the Causes of Breast Cancer: A Qualitative Study on the Relationship Between Stress, Trauma, and Breast Cancer Development, International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 16:1, DOI: 10.1080/17482631.2021.1983949
We qualitatively evaluated breast cancer survivors’ perception of the relation between breast cancer development and both childhood trauma and stressful life events in adulthood.
Women (N = 50) who have or had a positive breast cancer diagnosis completed a close-ended survey, a timeline of significant life events, and an in-depth interview. All interviews were transcribed and inductively coded using thematic analysis with an emphasis on patient perspectives of illness.
Participants reported a perceived connection between breast cancer development and stressful life events, and five themes were identified: 1) major interpersonal conflict in both childhood and adulthood, 2) patterns of stressful life events in childhood and adulthood, 3) ideas about why breast cancer developed, 4) relation between emotional stress and physical disease, 5) posttraumatic growth and meaning-making.
Our findings suggest the need for future research evaluating the long-term sequelae of stress and childhood trauma in breast cancer development.