Investigating social support in the breast cancer context

Nirgude, Prema Subhash (2016) Investigating social support in the breast cancer context. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The overall aim of this thesis was to examine the role of social support networks and the significant other in breast cancer survivors.

This thesis begins with a scoping review of current scientific literature to assess social support in the breast cancer context. The findings from this review showed that studies which have investigated social support networks in women with breast cancer do not often consider whether the actual support needs of the patient are met. In addition, there is little evidence from the support sources about the support that they may attempt to provide. Past research has attempted to measure social support and coping but is limited when attempting to understand interactions between the woman with breast cancer and their significant other as a dyadic process. Furthermore, the review indicated the lack of relevant research based in the UK.

In Study 1, the perceptions held regarding the male partner were explored in five in-depth interviews with breast cancer survivors to answer the research question of “What support do male partners provide?”. Data were thematically analysed and findings indicated that male partners were perceived to provide instrumental support, whereas female support sources were perceived to provide more emotional support. In addition, the male partner was not always perceived to be the significant other as previous literature has suggested. This finding led to Studies 2A and 2B which aimed to find out more about different social support sources, the types of support provided and identify the significant other.

Studies 2A and 2B mark one of the first examples of using ecomaps in this research area 1) as an elicitation tool in semi-structured interviews to collect data regarding an individual’s social support network and 2) as a method of visually presenting social support networks. Studies 2A and 2B illustrate the variety of sources and support provided. The final study, Study 3, presents three case studies of dyads, consisting of a breast cancer survivor and their nominated significant other, who they perceived to have provided them with the most support along the illness trajectory.

This thesis contributes to the research literature in several ways. First, it outlines the research gaps in the current scientific research. Second, it provides a novel methodology for investigating the social support networks of breast cancer survivors through the use of ecomapping. Third, it contributes to the emerging knowledge on dyadic coping. The new knowledge generated is of importance when considering the post-treatment phase of the breast cancer trajectory. Finally the limitations and strengths of this work are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Hunt, N.
Thomas, S.
Keywords: Social support networks, Breast cancer survivors, Ecomaps
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WP Gynecology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 33111
Depositing User: Nirgude, Prema
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2016 12:25
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2017 12:26

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