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Women’s experience of acute skin toxicity following radiation therapy in breast cancer

Authors Andersen ER, Eilertsen G, Myklebust AM, Eriksen S

Received 30 October 2017

Accepted for publication 9 January 2018

Published 23 February 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 139—148

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JMDH.S155538

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser


Eivind Richter Andersen,1,2 Grethe Eilertsen,3 Aud Mette Myklebust,2 Siren Eriksen3,4

1Department of Radiotherapy, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Stavanger University Hospital, Stavanger, Norway; 2Department of Optometry, Radiography and Lighting Design, University College of Southeast Norway, Drammen, Norway; 3Department of Nursing and Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, University College of Southeast Norway, Drammen, Norway; 4Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Ageing and Health, Vestfold Hospital Trust, Tønsberg, Norway

Purpose: Acute skin toxicity is experienced by 70%–100% of patients receiving radiation therapy following breast cancer. Most studies focus on skin appearances and treatment of such reactions, not the experience. Increased knowledge about patients’ experience will contribute to provide tailored patient care. Thus, the purpose was to investigate patients’ experiences of acute skin toxicity following radiation therapy for breast cancer.
Patients and methods: Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with seven women, 2–3 weeks post-treatment. Five broad areas of inquiry were investigated: 1) experiences from the development of skin reactions; 2) experiences in day-to-day life; 3) coping strategies; 4) experiences of information; and 5) experiences from the aftercare. The interviews were analyzed in line with qualitative content analysis.
Results: The main theme “Not so bad itself, but it comes on top of everything else” was identified, based upon three categories: 1) unique experience of the skin; 2) it is something about the psychological aspect; and 3) experience of information.
Conclusion: Acute skin toxicity following breast cancer treatment may affect many dimensions of patients’ lives. Experiences are complex, individual, and not necessarily consistent with visible changes of the skin. A holistic approach is necessary to provide treatment and support according to patients’ individual needs.

Keywords: supportive care, acute skin toxicity, oncology, neoplasm

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