Lived experiences of African American breast cancer survivors



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The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of female African American breast cancer survivors from breast cancer diagnosis through treatment. Currently, approximately 1 in 8 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime (ACS, 2021). In 2021, it is estimated that 281,550 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time, and more than 43,000 women in the United States will die due to breast cancer (Siegel et al., 2021). Specific to Texas, approximately 18,000 women in Texas diagnosed with breast cancer annually with African American women in Texas experiencing higher rates of aggressive and harder-to-treat breast cancer, and lower survival rates (Shimelis et al., 2018; TCR, 2020). Guided by Kleinman’s Explanatory Model of Illness and Critical Race Theory, this study explored African American women’s experiences with breast cancer and medical discrimination. This study used a qualitative phenomenological approach to answer the research questions and utilized the latest version of NVivo to organize and analyze the semi structured interview data. NVivo was used to explore themes and provide textural reflections of qualitative interview data (Saldaña, 2013; Hobaugh, 2019). Interpreting and coding of the interview data followed a rigorous and well-established seven-step process proposed by Moustakas (1994). Themes identified from the data were: (a) physical and emotional scars of breast cancer, (b) the role of faith in the healing process, (c) the village of supporters, and (d) the health care system is not centered around black women. This study shared the profound life lessons the breast cancer survivors learned over the course of their journey from diagnosis through treatment and into their current level of survivorship. Survivors shared the unpredictable impact of breast cancer treatment and the faith used to overcome their illness. Lastly, to avoid the effect of medical discrimination, survivors in the study used advice from their “village of supporters,” which included physicians, church members, family, friends, co-workers and most importantly other survivors, to identify culturally appropriate health care to meet their individual needs.



Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Survivorship, Breast Cancer Stage, Health Inequities, Lived Experience, Medical discrimination, Woman