Breast Cancer Screening: Women's Experiences of Waiting for Further Testing

Patricia Pineault

cancer screening, breast cancer, women, social support
ONF 2007, 34(4), 847-853. DOI: 10.1188/07.ONF.847-853

Purpose/Objectives: To describe anxiety experienced by participants in a breast cancer screening program who have received an abnormal screening mammography result and are waiting for further testing and diagnosis and to identify the social support needed during this period.

Design: Exploratory, descriptive.

Setting: Quebec Breast Cancer Screening Program (QBCSP) participants in Montreal, Canada.

Sample: Nonprobability sample of 631 asymptomatic women, aged 50-69, who had abnormal screening mammogram results in the two months prior to the survey and who spoke or read French or English.

Methods: Mailed self-report questionnaire.

Main Research Variables: Anxiety, social support, and breast cancer screening.

Findings: Fifty-one percent of the participants were quite or very anxious at every stage of the prediagnostic phase. Seventy-five percent expressed their feelings to family and friends whose support was comforting but did not diminish participants' anxiety. Satisfaction from social support offered by healthcare professionals reduced their anxiety.

Conclusions: To decrease anxiety in the prediagnostic phase, women need support from healthcare professionals during the early stage of the screening process to prevent exacerbation of their concerns. Support has to be integrated into a continuity-of-care process.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses can play a significant role in breast cancer screening programs. They can evaluate, at an early stage, participant anxiety and offer the appropriate social support. They also can ensure the follow-up and personalized support required while a patient awaits a diagnosis.

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