Cultural contexts shape how women with breast cancer cope with the illness

The professor at the Institute of Community and Public Health Weeam Hammoudeh explored, in her recent study the narratives of women with breast cancer in Turkey and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), underlining the similarities and differences in the ways in which they make sense of their diagnosis and cope with cancer treatment.

The study, entitled “Coping with cancer diagnosis and treatment: a comparative study on women with breast cancer in Turkey and occupied Palestinian territory”, is based on 30 and 35 semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted in Turkey and the oPt.  

The researcher found some parallels in the two settings, arguing that a diagnosis of breast cancer is a dramatic event with very strong reactions among many women, with women in both settings pointing to sharp increases in cancer incidence. The perceived increase in the prevalence of breast cancer among women appears to make cancer more manageable.

Hammoudeh concluded that there are clear variations in the degree of medicalization and prevalence of medical discourse in the two settings, with medical discourse around cancer more common in the Turkish context. Furthermore, socio-economic variations were more discernible in the Turkish setting, and perceived to impact care.

The findings of the study affirm that women's breast cancer experiences and the ways in which they make sense of their diagnosis are largely shaped by the cultural contexts they live in, within and across country and cultural settings.

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