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ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to explore employed women's experiences of light or moderate arm lymphoedema following breast cancer treatment in order to gain a deeper understanding of this phenomenon. Twelve women took part in a semistructured interview. A qualitative method with a phenomenological approach was applied to analyse data. In order to integrate the experiences in the everyday life of the women, a critical incident method was used. The findings indicate that there are many different practical and psychosocial problems related to arm lymphoedema. Three main themes were common to all the women. These themes were: (i) Attitudes from people in their surroundings, including reactions to the problem from other people and reactions from the women on the attitudes of other people. (ii) Discovery and understanding of oedema as a chronic disease and its treatment. (iii) Coping, including both problem-focused and emotion-focused strategies. The problems integrated in daily life were of low frequency but of considerable importance to the women. In conclusion, it is of great importance that health care professionals should be aware of and have knowledge about these problems. The women's needs for expressing their experiences of arm lymphoedema may be encouraged at the time of discovery and then regularly as long as the women seek care. Efforts may be made to strengthen the women's coping skills, eventually in a multidisciplinary approach. The interaction skills of health care professionals are probably of great importance in strengthening the resources of the women leading to a positive outcome.
Sahlgrenska University HospitalGoeteborg, Västra Götaland, Sweden