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Breast cancer, Couples, Hormone therapy, Interpretative phenomenological analysis, Spouses, Young woman



  1. Antoine, Pascal PhD
  2. Vanlemmens, Laurence MD
  3. Fournier, Emmanuelle MSCP
  4. Trocme, Melanie MSCP
  5. Christophe, Veronique PhD


Background: Young women are confronted with the same consequences of cancer as older women are. In addition, they face problems specifically related to their age, such as their children's education and their family responsibilities, marital relationships, and career issues.


Objective: The objective was to identify the functioning profiles of young couples confronted with hormone therapy.


Methods: This study was both qualitative and dyadic. Interviews with 11 couples revealed 5 themes.


Results: Initially, the partners reported increased intimacy and mutual support; however, during hormone therapy, a divergence developed between the patients and their partners. The partners wished for the couple to resume a normal life. The patients' loved ones, also helpful in the beginning, were tempted to promote this resumption of normalcy, with the risk that the patients' suffering would no longer be acknowledged. The risk of cancer recurrence appeared to immobilize the patients, who were unable to adopt a long-term perspective. Finally, the experience of the disease led the participants to reorganize their priorities and promoted self-centering.


Conclusions: Breast cancer affects both the patient and her loved ones. Future research should focus on qualitative extensions to other stages of cancer treatment and quantitative studies to measure the phenomena revealed in the current work.


Implications for Practice: Cancer and its treatment have impacts on the patient and her marriage; therefore, the focus for the clinical care should be on the couple rather than just the patient. Additionally, our findings suggest new areas of psychological dyadic counseling for cancer patients and their partners.