The formation of new romantic relationships after breast cancer
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 16:14 authored by Laura-Kate Shaw
While many un-partnered women consider romantic 'dating' to be a key priority after breast cancer, these women report significant dating-related barriers and concerns. This thesis investigates women's experiences of romantic relationship formation after breast cancer, and presents a novel intervention to help women navigate dating during cancer survivorship. Chapter 2 reviews the current literature regarding dating concerns among women with breast cancer or with a genetic susceptibility to developing this disease. It identifies six areas of concern: feeling unattractive due to treatment side-effects; perceiving limited dating partners available; cancer disclosure; fear of cancer recurrence; sexual intimacy anxiety; and, a sense of dating 'urgency'. Chapter 3 addresses significant gaps in the current literature and explores women's dating experiences after breast cancer. It identifies an overarching theme of 'navigating the breast cancer dating journey', comprising seven themes: the decision to consider dating; ability/desire to start a new relationship; cancer disclosure; changes to intimacy/sexuality; body image difficulties; changing values; and trusting a new partner. Chapter 4 examines factors associated with relationship formation difficulties (assessed via self-perceived interpersonal skills/competencies and dating-related anxiety) in breast cancer survivors. Results indicate that body image variables (self-evaluative salience and body image dissatisfaction) and attachment avoidance are associated with dating-related anxiety, whereas attachment avoidance and self-compassion are associated with self-perceived interpersonal competence scores. Chapter 5 details the development of a novel, online intervention to support women in romantic dating after breast cancer (Dating After The Experience-Breast Cancer; DATE-BC). Participants reported moderate-to-high acceptability, and recommended some improvements for future use and implementation. This thesis represents the first in-depth examination of romantic relationship formation after breast cancer, highlighting factors that should be targeted in survivor support interventions. Based on these findings, this thesis then presents a novel intervention to help women navigate the world of dating during cancer survivorship.