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Punjabi immigrant women’s experiences of breast cancer Howard, Amanda Fuchsia Star

Abstract

There is a notable absence of women from specific ethnocultural groups, including South Asians, in the published breast cancer research. The breast cancer experiences of Punjabi immigrant women, who represent the most populace group of South Asians in British Columbia, need to be understood in order to provide culturally appropriate cancer care. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the ways Punjabi immigrant women told stories of having breast cancer in order to uncover how they made sense of their experiences. The cultural and social world reflected in women's stories was also considered. This investigation was a secondary analysis of interview data collected for a larger study investigating South Asian women's experiences of self-discovered breast changes. In-depth, open-ended interviews with twelve Punjabi immigrant women who had breast cancer within the last eight years were available for this study. A combination of narrative analysis strategies were used to guide this secondary analysis, focussing on stories the Punjabi women constructed. Four storylines emerged from the analysis reflecting different constructions of experiences of breast cancer. The storylines were: dealing with just another health problem, surviving a family tragedy, living with never-ending fear and suffering, and learning a lesson from God. The minor theme, "being part of a close-knit family," illustrated the collective experience of breast cancer within the family and highlighted the family context as the most pronounced influence on the women's experiences. The detailed storylines suggest that Punjabi women's constructions of breast cancer are influenced by traditional family roles and expectations, spiritual beliefs, perceptions of breast cancer as treatable/untreatable, fears of speaking about breast cancer, and difficulties with translation and communication. These findings provide valuable insights for health care professionals into how culturally appropriate cancer care might address the needs of Punjabi women with breast cancer and their families.

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