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Young Couples’ Experiences of Breast Cancer During Hormone Therapy: An Interpretative Phenomenological Dyadic Analysis

Antoine, Pascal PhD; Vanlemmens, Laurence MD; Fournier, Emmanuelle MSCP; Trocmé, Mélanie MSCP; Christophe, Véronique PhD

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e31826429a5

Background: Young women are confronted with the same consequences of cancer as older women are. In addition, they face problems specifically related to their age, such as their children’s education and their family responsibilities, marital relationships, and career issues.

Objective: The objective was to identify the functioning profiles of young couples confronted with hormone therapy.

Methods: This study was both qualitative and dyadic. Interviews with 11 couples revealed 5 themes.

Results: Initially, the partners reported increased intimacy and mutual support; however, during hormone therapy, a divergence developed between the patients and their partners. The partners wished for the couple to resume a normal life. The patients’ loved ones, also helpful in the beginning, were tempted to promote this resumption of normalcy, with the risk that the patients’ suffering would no longer be acknowledged. The risk of cancer recurrence appeared to immobilize the patients, who were unable to adopt a long-term perspective. Finally, the experience of the disease led the participants to reorganize their priorities and promoted self-centering.

Conclusions: Breast cancer affects both the patient and her loved ones. Future research should focus on qualitative extensions to other stages of cancer treatment and quantitative studies to measure the phenomena revealed in the current work.

Implications for Practice: Cancer and its treatment have impacts on the patient and her marriage; therefore, the focus for the clinical care should be on the couple rather than just the patient. Additionally, our findings suggest new areas of psychological dyadic counseling for cancer patients and their partners.

Author Affiliations: Lille Nord de France University, Lille, and URECA (EA 1059), Villeneuve d’Ascq, France (Drs Antoine and Christophe and Mss Fournier and Trocmé); and Breast Cancer Department, Oscar Lambret Center, Lille (Dr Vanlemmens), France.

This study was supported by the Institut National Contre le Cancer, Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer, Roche, Novartis Pharma, Sanofi-Aventis, France.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Pascal Antoine, PhD, Univ Lille Nord de France, F-59000 Lille, France (

Accepted for publication June 9, 2012.

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins