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Freedman Tovia G. D.S.W. A.C.S.W.
Cancer Nursing: August 1994
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The chief goal of this exploratory study was to discover what a woman's own experience of her illness meant to her–how she thinks of herself as a woman and a person with a health problem. The study was exploratory in nature and designed to expand our conceptual thinking about health and illness and the delivery of health-care services. The study was qualitative, and the principal method was the semi-structured, in-depth, face-to-face interview. All of the women in the study had been diagnosed with primary breast cancer and were in a variety of stages of treatment. What emerged from the study were explanatory stories that women constructed to chronicle their illness experience and interpret it. The theme under discussion here is hair loss as symbolic of larger cultural beliefs and values. Recommendations for interventions with women who experience hair loss as a traumatic event are offered in the context of a deeper cultural understanding of hair loss that is a consequence of cancer care.

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