Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

"I Do Not Allow Myself to Be Harmed, It Is a Luxury; I Have Two Children Who Need Me": Remarks for Planning an Experiential Research Methodology in Women Who Have Undergone Mastectomy Due to Breast Cancer

Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

"I Do Not Allow Myself to Be Harmed, It Is a Luxury; I Have Two Children Who Need Me": Remarks for Planning an Experiential Research Methodology in Women Who Have Undergone Mastectomy Due to Breast Cancer

Article excerpt

Introduction2

Cancer is a severe disease, which inflicts a large portion of the population. The severity of the consequences on the quality of life and the immediate life threat, is directly connected with the social and psychological level through representations and phobias. Apart from being a severe biological problem, cancer is closely linked with the way that we socially approach this disease which "stigmatizes" the patient or offer help, especially psychosocial. Beyond the biological issues and the side-effects following, cancer is also linked in a direct way with psychosocial needs which surpass the help offered by the scientific medicine. A noteworthy element, which should be further, researched and accentuated, is the dimension of lived experience of the disease. Such an experience encompasses the way in which patients handle the transition from health to disease and the opposite, and structure their daily life as well as their interpersonal relationships. Cancer, especially breast cancer and mastectomy, total or simple (tumor removal) cause severe upsetting to multiple levels. The surgical intervention modifies the body while it creates multiple side-effects to the way the individual female particularity is formed, as well as social identity. The appearance of breast cancer leads to the surgical "trauma" of the breast, its total removal or partial due to tumor removal; the breast is an organ linked biologically and symbolically with female identity, with reference to motherhood as well as sexuality.

The female breast, especially for the modern western societies, has been identified with the essence of sexuality (we can simply consider that breast augmentation and lift operations are a particularly widespread form of plastic surgery (Alexias et al., 2012)). Simultaneously, once it is a necessary means for the nutrition of the infant, it constitutes a substantial element of motherhood. Cancer and the consequent mastectomy are therefore "problematizing" two basic elements of constitution and structuring of female social roles thus contributing to a particular life situation in which the woman who "struggles" for her life, has to identify with and make compromises with her new self (Weisman & Worden, 1976; Landmark & Wahl, 2002).

At this point, it is obvious that the reliable recording and "in-depth" understanding of the lived experience of cancer and the way to adjust to this new life situation after mastectomy is gaining particular attention (Lerner, 2001; Lauver et al., 1995; Facione & Facione, 2006; Radley & Bell 2007). In this context, one of the objectives of the paper is to record a highly suggested methodology for conducting qualitative research, using biographical interviews, in order to accentuate and help understand the lived-experience dimension of breast cancer and mastectomy. The analysis of biographical interviews is suggested, based on: a) the Grounded Theory from the methodological point of view, and b) the analysis of biographical disruption concerning the basic theoretic guidelines.

The Grounded Theory has been particularly developed in the decade of 1960, especially by Strauss, Glaser and Corbin (Glaser & Strauss, 1971; Glazer, 1992; Strauss & Corbin, 1996, 1997). Grounded theory is a systematic methodology in the development of theory, which is based on data collection and analysis in a systematic method. It is one of the most popular suggestions for organizing a qualitative research (Kaufmann, 1996; Wainwright, 1997; Creswell, 1998; Coffey & Atkinson, 1996; Silverman, 1998; Travers, 2001; Savvakis & Tzanakis, 2004). This method refers to the gradual "building of a theory" in the field of qualitative research, once it requires the interconnection between the data collection and data analysis (for many social researchers the discrimination between "qualitative" and "quantitative" methods is only a matter of degree). The theory is not forced a priori on the data, it is not predefined and fixed, but it starts developing in comparison and combination with the data. …

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