Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Dr. Jane M. Georges, Chairperson; Dr. Kathy Shadle James, Member; Dr. Caroline Etland, Member


African American Women, Cancer, Intersectionality, Mental Well Being, Oppression, Stress


African American women (AAW) continue to have breast cancer mortality rates that are 42% higher than White women (De Santis et al., 2015). Researchers suggest that an epistemological approach that integrates the biomedical and feminist models would be more effective in addressing health disparities. The concept of intersectionality, which grew out of the Black feminist movement, provides a lens in which to view the lived experiences of AAW with breast cancer. The intersectionality paradigm attempts to address the marginalized, oppressive, intersecting social existence of AAW through the examination of identity, social class, and power.

This qualitative study applied a descriptive phenomenological approach to examine the lived experiences of intersectionality among AAW with breast cancer. Using the phenomenological approach, 10 AAW ages 45-80, which were located various geographical areas of United States (U.S.), participated in one to one semi-structured 60- 90 minute digitally audio-recorded interviews. All of the participants had a self-report diagnosis of breast cancer with varying stages. A modified Husserlian approach by Amedeo Giorgi (2009) guided the data analysis.

The following themes emerged from the data analysis. The first, altruism, descriptions of how the women’s behavior reflects a historical trend of selfless giving and caring for those within their environment. The second theme: marginalization, descriptions of how the women were forced to the fringes or margins of society. Two forms of marginalization emerged: 1) passive marginalization described circumstances in which the women removed themselves either mentally or physically from societal adversity; and 2) active marginalization described circumstances in which the women were overlooked, devalued or ostracized by others. The third theme, silent strength, describes how the women displayed strength in silence while enduring life in the intersection. The final theme, existential invisibility, describes how the women have been an essential presence in society, but remain obscured individuals.

This research indicates that AAW could have additional upstream risk factors for the development of breast cancer that stem from life within the intersection. Implications for future research as a result of this study include: a community based participatory research project to examine the psychological effects of stress, development of culturally sensitive research instruments that measure stress, and mixed method studies that examine breast cancer disparities.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access