We qualitatively evaluated breast cancer survivors’ perception of the relation between breast
cancer development and both childhood trauma and stressful life events in adulthood.
Women (N = 50) who have or had a positive breast cancer diagnosis completed a close-ended
survey, a timeline of significant life events, and an in-depth interview. All interviews were
transcribed and inductively coded using thematic analysis with an emphasis on patient
perspectives of illness.
Participants reported a perceived connection between breast cancer development and stressful
life events, and five themes were identified: 1) major interpersonal conflict in both childhood and
adulthood, 2) patterns of stressful life events in childhood and adulthood, 3) ideas about why
breast cancer developed, 4) relation between emotional stress and physical disease, 5) posttraumatic
growth and meaning-making.
Our findings suggest the need for future research evaluating the long-term sequelae of stress and
childhood trauma in breast cancer development.