Background and Context:The issue of sexual challenges for advanced breast cancer sufferers in the country is not well understood and due to cultural and personal privacy issues around sexuality, is seldom explored or spoken about.
People Living With Cancer implemented a photovoice advocacy project to highlight challenges that cancer patients face in South Africa. After the thematic content analysis of the pilot study, only 3 references to sexuality were noted (N=112). The first reference was by a breast cancer sufferer who indicated concern that her husband would not be able to relate to her as a ‘real woman’ and the other 2 were by women whose husbands left them because of their diagnosis of cancer (ovarian cancer and breast cancer). The low incidence of comments on this important quality of life issue prompted the researchers to undertake a focus group process to explore the issue.
Aim:To collect photovoice contributions focussing on challenges of sexuality in a sample of advanced breast cancer sufferers in South Africa.
Strategy/Tactics:A wide socioeconomic range of breast cancer patients who attended an advocacy and fundraising breakfast in Cape Town South Africa was approached to complete a questionnaire indicating whether they had experienced sexual challenges as a result of their cancer diagnosis. 10 Women with advanced breast cancer were identified and individual follow-up photovoice interviews were conducted.
Programme/Policy Process:Photovoice contributions were anonymous so that the privacy of contributors was protected and so that openness could be encouraged. Where possible, partners/spouses were also invited to offer feedback about their views.
Outcomes/What was learned: Many cancer patients and their partners did not anticipate sexual challenges and were unprepared when they occurred. Cancer treatments were an obstacle to sexual comfort. Sexual challenges were difficult to address in the context of the seriousness of cancer, and this contributed to emotional stress.