The lived experience of ovarian cancer




Guenther, Joanna

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Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic malignancy in the United States. Survival from ovarian cancer is related to the stage at diagnosis, with much lower survival rates when diagnosed at an advanced stage. Only 25 percent of ovarian cancers are detected when confined to the ovary, suggesting effective screening and early detection of ovarian cancer as a significant health concern. Investigation of the lived experience of ovarian cancer diagnosis from the woman's perspective is limited, as minimal research has been conducted on the experiential knowledge that women have regarding their diagnosis. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and to compare specific components of their perception of the illness. A qualitative design with a phenomenological approach from a feminist epistemology was used with eleven participants purposively recruited through snowballing. Each participant participated in an interview, lasting about one hour. In addition, Kleinman's explanatory model (1980) was used as a guide for the interviews to elicit participants' perceptions of five key components of illness: (a) etiology (viewed as risk factors for this study), (b) time of onset of symptoms, (c) pathophysiology, (d) course of illness, and (e) treatment. Kleinman's model states that one's understanding of an illness is related to personal experiences, cultural influences, learned knowledge of the illness, discussions with friends and family, and other social interactions. The insightful and compelling narratives of these women's experiences led to identification of six constitutive patterns: Shock of it All, What Caused It?, Danger Ahead, Watchful Waiting, Being Normal, and Living in Present with Glimpse of Future. These patterns and their associated themes illuminate a deeper understanding of the life world of these women, specifically common meanings and shared practices. Analysis of the verbatim transcripts was guided by the work of Diekelmann and Allen (1989) which includes an analysis team. A reflexive journal recorded the involvement of the researcher throughout the research process. The knowledge generated by this study has implications for nursing care quality through increasing health care providers' awareness of the ovarian cancer experience. The study also serves to facilitate the development of education programs and screening tools to promote early detection and reduced mortality of ovarian cancer.



Health and environmental sciences, Feminist epistemology, Kleinman's explanatory model, Lived experience, Ovarian cancer, Phenomenology, Qualitative