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Cultural models of female breasts and breast cancer among Korean women

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DOI: 10.4236/ojn.2013.35055    3,025 Downloads   5,081 Views   Citations
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ABSTRACT

Although a great many qualitative descriptions of the experience of having breast cancer exist, they overwhelmingly represent experiences of women in Western cultures and are based on assumptions that stem from Western individualism. This study explores and describes cultural models shared by a group of non-Western women, South Koreans, in reference to female breasts and breast cancer. The hermeneutic phenomenology-grounded qualitative study was conducted with 40 Korean women, between 23 and 81 years of age, half of whom were breast cancer survivors. The analysis elicited two cultural models, both characterized in terms of physical relationships to others (as opposed to the woman’s individual or independent view of her body): a breast-feeding mother to a child and an attractive wife to a husband. Female breasts are interpreted as a medium that connects women to roles as mothers and wives. Breast cancer can lead women to detach from their previous relational and role-oriented identities. Cultural traditions, cultural concepts, and culture-related health beliefs in Korea are interwoven deeply in the women’s stories about breasts, as a gendered organ, and its disease. The findings suggest that understanding indigenous cultural models should precede any supportive breast cancer care for women from non-Western cultural backgrounds. 

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Suh, E. (2013) Cultural models of female breasts and breast cancer among Korean women. Open Journal of Nursing, 3, 404-413. doi: 10.4236/ojn.2013.35055.

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