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Nurses and Women With Breast Cancer

No Time to Lose

Gürsoy, Ayla PhD

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doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000305
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Breast cancer continues to threaten women’s health all over the world despite the many advances in treatments in recent years. Nurses need to actively use their health training and counselor roles to educate women about risk factors for breast cancer and ways to reduce them. Even with our best efforts, we may not be able to protect all women against developing breast cancer. Nevertheless, we can provide women with the tools to understand the importance of early diagnosis and how to effectively and regularly utilize breast cancer screening methods. After a breast cancer diagnosis, the long, exhausting, and complicated treatments create challenges for both patients and families. The treatments have adverse effects that may result in physical, emotional, and psychological ramifications. Patients and families may find that the issues of life and death often dominate their thoughts. For all these reasons, many kinds of support from the clinical care team are critically important.

In most cultures, the breast carries a special significance. Breasts signify womanhood and femininity, the feeding of babies, and sexuality. The importance of women’s breasts and a diagnosis of breast cancer can render the journey through diagnosis and treatment especially difficult. Therefore, women who received a diagnosis of breast cancer should receive the highest level of holistic nursing care for as long as they need this support.

In order to make progress in the fight against breast cancer, what difference can one nurse make? The answer may vary depending on the characteristics of the nurse and the environment. However, without a doubt, many individuals, who are united around the same objective, can achieve many things.

Between 2000 and 2004, the “International Breast Health and Breast Cancer Education” project was conducted in cooperation with the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.1–3 During the 2-day program, 32 nurses from 20 countries were trained. One of my colleagues represented our country of Turkey and participated in the program in 2002; it was exciting for me to participate in the same pioneering program in 2004 in Sydney. The 2 of us began working in our country in 2005 with the Turkish Oncology Nursing Association to offer breast cancer nursing training workshops. To date, we have trained 227 nurses and 28 breast cancer nursing trainers who educate and guide nurses in all geographical regions of our country.4 Within Turkish Oncology Nursing Association, we formed a breast cancer nursing subgroup in 2007 that expanded its efforts into creating community training, nursing training, and research groups. The community training group organizes community training workshops, awareness walks, and radio-television programs in the month of breast cancer awareness. The nursing training group conducts breast cancer nursing courses. The training groups are preparing educational materials for healthy women, patients, and nurses about breast cancer. The research group determines the research priorities of our country and plans and undertakes studies. At the end of the year, as a subgroup of the association, we prepared the annual activity report to see what we had achieved and what more we could achieve. It was then that I understood that the real excitement had just started.

Women’s accessibility to healthcare services varies depending on the country where they live. However, wherever they live, they are scared. They want to be informed and to be guided in learning about surgical and reconstruction options. They want to be supported when they grieve for their removed breasts and hair loss. They do not want to have pain, vomiting, and hot flashes. When the treatment process ends, they want to ask questions and get answers that will help them begin their lives again. All women, no matter where they live, deserve information and support as they navigate the journey of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Yet, the reality is many countries do not have the same treatment infrastructure as other more developed countries. Turkey currently is experiencing a nursing shortage, and those presently employed do not always have enough knowledge or interest in working with breast cancer patients Therefore, we as nurses of different countries should share our knowledge with other colleagues around the world to unite and strengthen our resolve to eradicate breast cancer through education and research. We can provide the nurses of the countries in need with the training, training materials, and our efforts to establish breast centers. We can walk for the women of another country in the month of breast cancer awareness. We have completed the first breast cancer nursing course with 54 nurses in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and have made attempts to provide training in countries where our language is spoken.

I do not know how much 1 nurse can accomplish alone. But I do know very well that more than 1 nurse, working together with others toward a common goal, can change the world. Let us be aware of and unite our strengths and move in the direction of progress. We have no time to lose.


1. Dow Meneses K, Yarbro CH. Cultural perspectives of international breast health and breast cancer education. J Nurs Scholarsh. 2007; 39(2): 105–112.
2. Meneses KD, Yarbro CH. An evaluation of the train the trainer international breast health and breast cancer education: lessons learned. J Cancer Educ. 2008; 23(4): 267–271.
3. Yarbro CH. International nursing and breast cancer. Breast J. 2003; 9(suppl 2): S98–S100.
4. Karayurt O, Gürsoy AA, Taşçi S, Gündoğdu F. Evaluation of the Breast Cancer Train the Trainer Program for Nurses in Turkey. J Cancer Educ. 2010; 25(3): 324–328.
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