The meaning of quality of life in patients being treated for advanced breast cancer: a qualitative study.

Research paper by Minna-Liisa ML Luoma, Liisa L Hakamies-Blomqvist

Indexed on: 24 Sep '04Published on: 24 Sep '04Published in: Psycho-Oncology


The purpose of the present study was to investigate the meaning of advanced breast cancer patients' quality of life (QoL). A semi-structured interview was used, and the phenomenological research method chosen to analyse the data. The findings show that limitations in physical functioning translate into dependency on others, leading to decreased autonomy. Patients tended to ensure their autonomy by participating in easier activities or changing their internal standards. Changes in appearance and decreased condition affected patients' ability to carry out roles and responsibilities, which led to changes in lifestyle and also affected patients' social functioning, often resulting in isolation. The meaning of being able to sustain reciprocal relationships was emphasized. Patients maintained control of to what extent their illness was recognized in social relationships, which was crucial to their feelings of autonomy. Close families were a main source of social support, but also a major source of concern. Meaning of emotional functioning was often expressed in terms of the ability to enjoy life day-by-day and of commitment to treatment. Patients' cognitive functioning was largely intact while their difficulties in cognitive functioning were more characteristic of anxiety. Global QoL was often expressed in terms of a normal life. In addition there were 3 meta themes which emerged from the data: the patients' ability to control the illness experience, personal growth and hope.