Physical and Emotional Experiences of Chemotherapy: a Qualitative Study among Women with Breast Cancer in Southern Thailand

Document Type: Research Articles

Authors

1 Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Sports Science, Thaksin University, Phatthalung, Thailand.

2 School of Science and Health, Western Sydney University, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia.

Abstract

Background: Chemotherapy treatment can increase survival rates among women with breast cancer elsewhere.
However, it also has negative impact on women’s general appearance, body image and psychological functioning.
This study aimed to describe the experiences of chemotherapy treatment among Thai women with breast cancer
in rural communities, sounthern Thailand. Methods: Qualitative approach was employed to gain insights about
the experiences of the women. In-depth interviewing and drawing methods were conducted with 20 Thai women
who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Thematic method was used to analyse the data. Results: Three themes
emerged from the findings: I feel so weak: Lack of physical energy; experiencing physical and emotional burdens and
managing health and life. Women were traumatized by effects of chemotherapy and suffered severe physical side effects.
Most received inadequate professional support from health care providers and had to rely on their own judgment and
use local resources to deal with the effects of their treatment and to improve their health and well-being. Conclusions:
Chemotherapy brought about traumatic experiences to Thai women with breast cancer. Continual support is needed for
the women to reduce the difficulties they might encounter. Support groups should be established for these women when
receiving and completing chemotherapy treatment. Our finding suggested that social support programs that meet their
need are salient means that could reduce the sufferings of these women. Nurses and other health care professionals in
the local community should play their important role to establish such group and make it accessible for all.

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