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Title: An exploration of the experiences and perceptions of young women living with a history of breast cancer in the UK
Author: Rees, Sophie
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis explores the experiences and perceptions of young women living with a history of breast cancer in the UK, diagnosed under age 45. Although much research has examined the experience of breast cancer, the distinctive perspectives and lives of young women have been neglected. The literature review identified the following dimensions to living with a history of breast cancer as a young woman as key areas for exploration: embodiment, biographical disruption, gender, and intersectionality. By analysing the significance of intersectionality, the study aimed to redress the tendency in existing research to treat women with breast cancer as a homogeneous group. Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were undertaken with twenty women aged 22-43 at diagnosis, and a stakeholder panel was held with three further young women. Three women who identified as minority ethnic, and two who identified as lesbians, were purposively recruited to the sample. The methodology was informed by social constructionist grounded theory, feminist, and intersectionality perspectives, and preliminary analysis was carried out concurrently with data collection. Although similarities with older women’s experiences exist, the findings showed that young women felt profoundly at odds with their bodies in a number of ways. These included: embodied risk, related to uncertain treatment outcome; and a dissonance between young women’ expectations of their bodies, and the reality. The effects of diagnosis and treatment resulted in a liminal, or suspended, state, because of uncertainty regarding fertility, pregnancy, and menopausal status. This, and the constraints of the treatment timescale, resulted in a perceived loss of agency over their future. Gendered ideals about young women’s bodies, the association of fertility with femininity, and the performance of emotion work, had a considerable impact. Reflecting the effects of intersecting social divisions, lesbian and minority ethnic respondents identified a series of disadvantages that they experienced in the course of treatment and care. The study contributes a deeper, and more nuanced, account to the limited literature about young women in the UK living beyond breast cancer, identifying the distinctive experiences and perceptions which arise for young women.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HQ The family. Marriage. Woman ; RC0254 Neoplasms. Tumors. Oncology (including Cancer)