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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Genevieve Chandler

Second Advisor

Karen Kalmakis

Third Advisor

Luis A. Marentes

Fourth Advisor

Margaret Barton-Burke

Subject Categories

Medicine and Health Sciences | Social and Behavioral Sciences



Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women of all ethnic groups. Women living with breast cancer encounter not only physical problems but also psychological stress. The breast cancer diagnosis causes crisis for both patients and their families. Research of the lived experience of Puerto Rican women with breast cancer is scarce, and the little research found often classifies Puerto Rican women together with other groups such as Latin or Hispanic. While similarities of breast cancer experiences exist within Latin subgroups, aspects experienced by Puerto Rican women might be unique to them. Unique elements of a lived experience in a particular group can be influenced by sociocultural norms, behaviors, and beliefs.

The aim of this research was to gain a deep understanding of the lived experience of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in Puerto Rican women and the cultural influence. This phenomenological study took place in the northern urban areas of Puerto Rico. Women between 35 and 45 years old diagnosed with breast cancer stage II or III were invited to participate through posters and flyers. The participants answered a demographic survey and engaged in in-depth interview sessions to describe their lived experience before, during, and after their breast cancer diagnosis. A thematic analysis was done from the transcripts, generating several themes related to their unique and personal journey through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Data obtained from the survey and the interviews were transcribed verbatim. The data were then organized for proper analysis by themes.

Findings exhibit that Puerto Rican women encounter concerns similar to other women who have been diagnosed with BC. The major themes that emerged from their lived experience were the following: Lack of knowledge about breast cancer and its symptoms; Fear about what would happen with their lives; Stress through the treatment process; Disturbed body image from losing their hair, their breast, or showing their scar; faith in God or a superior force; Need for support from relatives and friends; and Need for self-disclosure.