Understanding the Breast Cancer Experience: a Qualitative Study of Malaysian Women


Breast cancer is the most common and leading cause of cancer mortality among Malaysian women. Despitegood survival rates, the diagnosis of cancer still invokes the feeling of stress, fear and uncertainty. Because verylittle is known about the experiences of Malaysian women with breast cancer, a qualitative study using semistructuredinterviews to explore the lived experience of newly diagnosed breast cancer. Using a purposive samplingmethod, 20 Malaysian women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, including Malays (n=10) and Chinese (n=10)were recruited in two main public hospitals in Kelantan. Similarities and divergence in women’s experience wereidentified through thematic analysis of interview transcripts. Three themes emerged from the data: uncertaintyexperience of the illness, transition process and fatalistic view of breast cancer. In many ways, these findingswere parallel with previous studies, suggesting that the experience of breast cancer is to a certain extent similaramong women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. This study adds to the sparse literature concerning theexperience of illness following breast cancer diagnosis among the Malays and Chinese. More importantly, thisstudy addressed areas that were previously lacking, specifically in depth information on breast cancer experiencefrom a developing country with a multi-ethnic population. The results of this investigation provide preliminaryinformation to healthcare professionals on the impact of illness and cultural influence on survivorship to planfor appropriate education and supportive programme in order to meet the needs of breast cancer women moreeffectively.