The experience of neurocognitive changes in women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer

Date of Completion

January 2008


Health Sciences, Nursing




The purpose of this descriptive phenomenological study was to explore the lived experience of the neurological changes women describe while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. The purposive sample consisted of 13 women who participated in audiotaped interviews. Colaizzi's (1978) descriptive phenomenological method guided data analysis. Participants included in the study were women with breast cancer who were currently undergoing or who had completed adjuvant chemotherapy treatment within the last 12 months. The women reported changes in memory, concentration, or attention since undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer; were able to read and understand English and were willing and able to talk about their experiences. Data were grouped into the following eight recurrent themes: (a) Insidious recognition and delayed validation, (b) Looking for answers in all the wrong places, (c) Attention: Can't keep my eye on the ball, (d) Underwhelming information for an overwhelming experience, (e) Work department: Hold please!, (f) Missing label: Caution: woman on chemo onboard, (g) Coping: Not on the cancer journey alone, (h) What the future holds. Findings of this study validate not only the existence of the phenomenon of neurocognitive changes associated with chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer but also its affect on everyday living. The insight that emerges from these women's stories may be useful in the design of screening questionnaires, educational products and interventional strategies to assist women through this underestimated experience and stressful time of their lives. ^