‘I am not the same’ is a study based on a groundbreaking interdisciplinary collaboration between breast and endocrine surgeons, nurse/researchers and a cultural studies researcher. The purpose behind this innovative constellation is to increase understanding of individual and cultural differences and expressions in women with breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a diagnosis previously linked to strong social taboos – one did not talk about the disease because breasts were regarded as part of a woman’s intimate sphere. Since the 1970s, through the women’s movements and feminism, there has been an increasing awareness of the relationship between disease, medicine, body and gender. Following on from this, breast cancer activism has achieved an important unveiling of these taboos, creating transparency around a female disease that was previously considered shameful and therefore silenced.
Still, we know little about the subjective experience of removing or reconstructing the breast due to breast cancer, and what these operations entail for the individual patient.
Our study seeks to describe patients’ experiences with expressive writing, as well as exploring women’s thoughts and feelings about various aspects of the breast cancer trajectory, and the personal and symbolic particularities surrounding this female organ.
The full title of the study is ‘I am not the same’ – women’s experiences of breast cancer, breast loss and reconstruction in a psychosocial and cultural context. The project is based in the Department of Research at Stavanger University Hospital, Norway.