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Psychooncology. 2014 May;23(5):578-84. doi: 10.1002/pon.3451. Epub 2013 Nov 28.

Support needs and resources of sexual minority women with breast cancer.

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The New School for Social Research, Clinical Psychology, New York, NY, USA.



The current paper utilizes qualitative methods to better understand the support needs and resources of sexual minority women (SMW) breast cancer patients.


Thirteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with SMW, who were recruited from community-based organizations and had undergone mastectomy for treatment of breast cancer. Interviews explored support needs and resources. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis.


Three key domains emerged: support groups, family of origin support, and partner support. Participants emphasized the value of cancer support groups and resources tailored to SMW while stating that other dimensions of identity or experience, particularly age and cancer stage, were also important. Participants noted the dearth of social support resources for same-sex partners. Family of origin and partners were typically participants' primary sources of tangible and emotional support; participants often engaged in protective buffering to mitigate caregivers' distress. Single women faced the greatest challenges in terms of support needs and resources. Former partners were often key sources of support.


SMW and their partners have many shared and unique support resources and barriers. Heteronormativity that is implicit in the structure of support resources can serve as a barrier to support for SMW and their partners. Flexibility in relationship roles enabling some SMW to include former partners as significant means of support may be a source of resiliency, particularly for unpartnered SMW cancer patients. Support needs and resources of SMW are best understood through an intersectionality framework that considers sexual orientation, relationship status, cancer stage, age, healthcare access, and other important identities and experiences.


cancer; family; oncology; sexual minority women; social support; support group

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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