eISSN: 2450-5722
ISSN: 2450-5927
Journal of Health Inequalities
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vol. 1
Original paper

A survey on how social support, medical care and nursing impacts on the quality of women’s lives after mastectomy

Małgorzata Kaczmarkiewicz
Stanisław Sporny

J Health Inequal 2015; 1: 19–27
Online publish date: 2015/12/31
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Rates of breast cancer continue to grow along with the number of patients undergoing mastectomy. Breast cancer needs therefore to be detected as early as possible by means of more frequent and large-scale screening. This could thereby improve treatment outcomes and afford protection in some women against aggressive forms of cancer treatment.
Although the general public has increasingly become more cancer-aware, people still seek medical attention too late. Detrimental changes in breast tissue are often at an advanced stage and thus require treatment; unfortunately involving mastectomy.
For women the breast is regarded as vital symbol of femininity and motherhood, and so it is easily understandable how breast removal adversely affects a woman’s mental wellbeing, her physical state and social situation. The increasing numbers of women patients after aggressive breast surgery require care, medical assistance and support, primarily from loved ones but also from medical staff and society in general. Good will and empathy are needed at different times during one’s life, both in health and in disease; this being particularly essential to women after breast surgery. It is important that such patients are motivated and supported when facing their breast cancer. Breast cancer sufferers have to struggle hard for their health and life, where they require comprehensive physical and mental rehabilitation so that they can best cope with family life and in general society.
The study was undertaken in Kalisz, Poland by the ‘Amazon Club’ in Kalisz and the Private Specialist Health Care Oncology Clinic. One of the study aims was to investigate the circumstances in which a diagnosis had been made. As aforementioned, despite society’s growing cancer awareness, women are diagnosed late and their breast cancer is so advanced as to require aggressive surgery. Most of those surveyed in our study (48 women; 60%) found changes in their breast during self-examination. Another aim was to subjectively assess the social support received by the subjects from the time of diagnosis and then throughout treatment; particularly regarding the acceptance of family and friends. We found that, at diagnosis, 29 subjects (36%) reported greatest support from their family and for 16 (20%) this came from ‘Amazon Club’ members as well as their families.
Subjects who found acceptance from their life-partner and close family reported that they felt no need for breast reconstruction and accepted themselves as they are.
Following their breast surgery, a further study aim was to also evaluate the effect of medical treatment, nursing care and patient education on the patient’s family and professional life. We found that 30 subjects (37%) reported that most of the information they obtained at diagnosis came from the doctor, however this was by no means exhaustive as the subjects themselves make clear.
It is vital for such women after diagnosis to be entered into special psychological care programs. Nevertheless we found that 50 subjects (62%) were not covered by any such programs. Not all women showed such a need, however it is important that all patients can, if they so wish, have access to such help.
It is concluded that full and informed knowledge on treatment, nursing care and help in every-day living, including physiological support, can most certainly improve the lives of women after mastectomy.

support, mastectomy, education

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