The impact of a breast cancer diagnosis in young women on their relationship with their mothers
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BACKGROUND: For young women with breast cancer mothers might either be a source of support or of increased stress, depending on the premorbid relationship and on the psychological effect of the daughter's diagnosis on her mother. OBJECTIVES: To examine the effects of a breast cancer diagnosis on young women's relationships with their mothers and the possible support needs of these mothers from the daughters' perspective. PATIENTS AND METHODS: We developed and pre-tested a self-administered questionnaire on 10 survivors of breast cancer diagnosed ≤ age 40. Then, consecutive recurrence-free young women diagnosed with breast cancer were asked to complete the modified questionnaire. RESULTS: Of 110 daughters approached from July/11 to May/12, 90 (82%) participated. In 11 cases (13%), the daughters had turned to their mothers before approaching anyone else. Of the 83 daughters who disclosed their diagnosis to their mothers, 76 (92%) stated their mothers had been emotionally and/or practically supportive, and 43 (54%) reported that the breast cancer diagnosis had a favorable impact on their relationship with their mothers. Of the 35 employed mothers, 26 had taken time off from work to support their daughters. Nineteen mothers, eight of whom had been living in a different country, had slept over or moved in with daughters during their treatment. Twenty-two daughters believed their mothers felt responsible to some extent for their developing breast cancer. Fifty-nine daughters indicated that health care professionals could help mothers by providing information pamphlets, education sessions, and linking to support groups. CONCLUSION: Mothers are an important source of support for young daughters with breast cancer, with the mother-daughter relationship frequently becoming closer after the diagnosis. However, the practical and emotional burden on mothers appears to be high. Future studies should address the effects of a breast cancer diagnosis in young daughters from the mothers' perspective, and the benefit of formal supports for these mothers.
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