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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2011 Oct;42(4):517-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2010.12.007. Epub 2011 Mar 27.

Self-management and transitions in women with advanced breast cancer.

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Yale School of Nursing, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.



Self-management involves behaviors that individuals perform to handle health conditions. Self-management may be particularly challenging during transitions-shifts from one life phase or status to another, for example, from cure- to noncure-oriented care-because they can be disruptive and stressful. Little is known about individuals' experiences with self-management, especially during transitions.


Our purpose was to describe experiences of self-management in the context of transitions among women with advanced breast cancer.


We interviewed a purposive sample of 15 women with metastatic breast cancer about their self-management preferences, practices, and experiences, including how they managed transitions. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. The qualitative method of interpretive description was used to code and analyze the data.


Participants' mean age was 52 years (range 37-91 years); most were White (80%), married (80%), and college educated (60%). Self-management practices related to womens' health and to communication with loved ones and providers. Participants expressed a range of preferences for participation in self-management. Self-management included developing skills, becoming empowered, and creating supportive networks. Barriers to self-management included symptom distress, difficulty obtaining information, and lack of knowledge about the cancer trajectory. Women identified transitions as shifts in physical, emotional, and social well-being, as when their cancer progressed and there was a need to change therapy. Transitions often prompted changes in how actively women self-managed and were experienced as positive, negative, and neutral.


Self-management preferences can vary. Providers should explore and revisit patients' preferences and ability to self-manage over time, particularly during transitions.

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