"Social Separation" Among Women Under 40 Years of Age Diagnosed with Breast Cancer and Carrying a BRCA1 or BRCA2 Mutation. [Article]

  • Kenen R
  • Ardern-Jones A
  • Eeles R
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Abstract

We conducted an exploratory, qualitative study investigating experiences of women who had developed breast cancer under the age of 40 and who were identified as BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation carriers. These germline mutation carriers face an increased lifetime risk of a second primary breast cancer and an increased risk for a primary ovarian cancer. Thirteen women who fit this criteria participated in three focus groups conducted at a major cancer center in the UK during Spring 2003. We asked broad, open-ended questions that allowed for a wide range of responses about their cancer and genetic testing experiences, physical and psycho-social concerns, family and partner reactions and their need for social support. The women expressed feelings of devastation, loneliness, feeling different and isolation, ambivalence about having to support family members, worries about partner's anxiety and depression, and anxiety about talking to family members, especially children. These feelings were stronger after the cancer diagnosis and compounded by the genetic test results that occurred at a later time. We also found that, at least temporarily, the women experienced what we call "social separation"-emotional distance from, or dissonance with groups they interact with or are part of, e.g., family and friends, frequently leading to a reduction in communication or a change in previously unstated, but accepted normal interaction. We concentrate on a few characteristics of social separation-feelings of aloneness, isolation and separation, use of silence and verbal discretion, the relationship between estrangement and kinship interaction and norm disruption, and are looking at social patterns of interpersonal relationships that may occur when risk and illness statuses are new and framing and feeling rules have not as yet been clearly developed due to a cultural lag., (C)2006 Kluwer Academic Publishers

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Authors

  • Regina Kenen

  • Audrey Ardern-Jones

  • Rosalind Eeles

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