Research suggests that breast cancer patients seek and benefit from social support that they view as helpful. Previous qualitative studies have explored overtly negative behaviors by family and friends in some depth. Several quantitative studies have explored how support that is viewed as unhelpful constrains, hinders coping, and causes distress to breast cancer patients. The current study differs from previous studies in that it provides an exploration of the perceived helpfulness of support provision that is well-intended. This study employed a phenomenological approach based on the interpretivist lifeworld perspective. It was conceptualized within the postmodern paradigm which draws from the works of Durkheim and Foucault and emphasizes cultural influences on social phenomena. Ethnography was used as the research method because it is ideal for bringing to light the experiences of social support as perceived by breast cancer patients. Data collection and analysis was guided by Spradley’s (1979) Developmental Research Sequence. Analysis of 20 individual interviews, 2 focus groups, and 20 published writings by breast cancer patients identified 7 main themes that provide an in-depth understanding of the helpfulness of supportive offerings from their perspectives. The results indicate supportive offerings that demonstrate caring and facilitate the management of feelings are helpful. Supportive offerings that alienate, are nonchalant or dismissive, provide unsolicited advice, are perceived as constraining, or pressure recipients into providing a positive outcome to their experience are perceived as unhelpful. The findings from this study provide a deeper understanding of the factors that contribute to the salutary effects of support provision. It is expected that these findings will enable support providers, clinicians, and health care practitioners and agencies to determine the extent to which their supportive offerings meet the needs of this target population and to make changes that could benefit future breast cancer patients.

LLU Discipline

Social Policy and Social Research


Social Work and Social Ecology


School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Owen, Jason E.

Second Advisor

Winslow, Betty

Third Advisor

Ortiz, Larry

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Breast Neoplasms - Psychology; Breast Neoplasms - Therapy; Patient Satisfaction; Social Support; Patient Outcome Assessment

Subject - Local

Interpretivist Lifeworld Perspective; Breast Cancer Patients



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives