Purpose: To investigate how breast cancer survivors with comorbid diabetes mellitus (diabetes) conceptualize their illnesses.
Participants & Setting: 19 community-dwelling, English- or Spanish-speaking women with diabetes in New York, New York, who received chemotherapy or hormone therapy for stage I–IIIA breast cancer in the past five years.
Methodologic Approach: Semistructured interviews were administered by trained research staff, and were audio recorded and transcribed. Three coders reviewed transcripts through an iterative coding process. An interpretive descriptive approach was used to identify themes.
Findings: Major themes included an inverse relationship between illness control and concern, variation in perceived illness permanence, and differences in illness consequences. Women with a greater perceived control over breast cancer viewed their diabetes as a larger concern; others felt that their breast cancer could not be controlled but diabetes could.
Implications for Nursing: Understanding how breast cancer survivors view diabetes and cancer may explain the variation in survivors’ self-management behaviors, and how it may influence their attitudes and behaviors in the context of cancer treatment.