Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Department

Nursing

Advisor

Judith Lothian, Ph.D

Committee Member

Bonnie Sturm, Ed.D

Committee Member

Bonnie Sturm, Ed.D

Committee Member

Munira Wells, Ph.D

Keywords

cognitive dysfunction, chemo brain, cognitive changes, breast cancer, neurocognitive dysfunction

Abstract

Cognitive deficits have been shown to affect those who have undergone treatment with chemotherapy. This is often referred to as chemo-brain. The purpose of this descriptive phenomenological study was to explore the lived experience of the chemo brain after undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. The study sample consisted of six women between the ages of 29 and 50 with early stage breast cancer. van Manen’s (1997) descriptive phenomenological method guided data analysis. The recurrent themes identified in this study were (1) Struggles with day to day life (2) Emotions related to diagnosis and treatment, (3) Fatigue (4) Coping and support, and (5) Feeling grateful. Findings of this study confirm the existence of cognitive changes during and after chemotherapy and describe as well the effects on daily life including fatigue, emotions, and the importance of support. This study suggests the importance of educating both healthcare providers and patients about the cognitive changes related to chemotherapy and ways to cope with these changes.

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