Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Loopy Lou's Breast Cancer Research Update

Here is a lovely post by a QRIP member, known online as Loopy Lou, outlining her research on breast cancer using grounded theory!

A quick blurb on my research!!  I am exploring the ways in which women which are at high risk of, but have never been personally affected with, breast cancer adapt to this knowledge of being at increased risk. I am keen to understand the ways in which they manage the uncertainty inherent in risk and the things they think and do to manage any distress they experience in relation to coming from a high-risk family.

I am using Grounded Theory as a methodology, because there are existing theories and plenty of studies on women at increased risk who undergo genetic testing and few studies of the women at increased risk who remain ineligible for testing. I hope that the findings will guide the development of resources and possibly supportive interventions that will be applicable to all women at increased risk, regardless of whether they are eligible for testing or not.

I am finding the research process challenging, as I expected it to be, yet enjoyable and creative in ways that quantitative research is lacking. Obviously quantitative research is essential and very useful, but for a topic like mine, simple measures of distress lack comprehensiveness and existing measures of adaptation quantify it as an outcome, leaving the process behind. If we are to identify stages in the process where intervention is crucial and strategies to be incorporated into those interventions, then qualitative inquiry is the only way.

Today I have realised that my ‘superficial’ open codes are not a complete waste. As I go back through the transcripts to see which codes clump together and reassess the data for meaning, the transition from superficial codes to meaning (question: is this the category, or is the category an additional step between here and the higher order themes?) to overarching themes emerges as a logical sequence. The superficial codes are going to provide transparency of the coding process so that I can justify my findings. Currently, the coding structure is still in its infancy but I get the feeling my three main themes will remain mostly unchanged. I can see the overlap where some of the meanings are relevant for more than one main theme, but with more data I imagine the structure of the codes will tighten up and my theory of how women adapt to knowledge of increased risk will emerge with refined clarity. This is where I’m currently up to, so after I have made a little more headway Ill post again!

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