Experiences of the breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy at public hospital Peshawar, Pakistan

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Nursing (MScN)


School of Nursing and Midwifery, Pakistan


Background: Radiotherapy (RT) is the common treatment modality for breast cancer which also has some undesirable physical and psychological effects on the patients. However, the phenomenon has remained highly under-explored in the context of Pakistan. Purpose: This study aimed to explore the experiences of female breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy. Methodology: This study employed a descriptive exploratory method. A purposive sample of fourteen breast cancer women undergoing radiotherapy was selected for this study. Data was collected from January to May, 2015, using a semi structured interview guide and conducting in depth face-to-face interviews with the participants. These interviews were audio taped and transcribed by a bilingual transcriber. The translated version of the interview was coded and the analysis was done manually. Findings: The four main categories revealed after data analysis, were: feelings and perceptions of the patients, their challenges, teaching and informational needs, and coping strategies. In addition to the grief and sorrow, the participants experienced shame and guilt. Fatigue and pain were reported as the most common physical complaints, which affected the participants' role erformance. They also experienced financial challenges as a result of which some of the participants went into desperation. The status of their informational needs, regarding RT, was negligible. Therefore, they had to rely on other patients for information and, consequently, they were gripped by the feelings of fear and anxiety. Having a strong belief in God, they used prayers and recitation of the Holy Quran and Verses as their coping strategies. Their main support system was their families who offered them emotional, psychological, and financial support. Conclusion: Women undergoing RT in this culture experience more intense psychological effects, as compared to the physical effects. This study also identified a lack of necessary information regarding RT, and suggests that health care providers should address these needs so as to reduce the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty of the patients. Keeping in mind the magnitude of the emotional stress experienced by the study participants while exposing themselves in front of the male technicians during RT, reforms in the policy for training and hiring female staff in the RT department are highly recommended.

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