How Enlisted Women on Active Duty Manage Breast Cancer


Name: Margaret Wilmoth


Organization: University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Performance Site: University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC

Year Published: 1997

Abstract Status: Final


Diagnosis with breast cancer does not automatically end the career of enlisted women in the military. However, it has a significant impact on career progression, on physical and psychological readiness, and on overseas assignments. This study used grounded theory methods to identify how enlisted women in the military managed the demands of their careers concurrently with treatment for breast cancer.Sixteen women from all three services (Army, Navy, Air Force) were interviewed three times over a 9-month time period about how they managed treatment and work demands. The women ranged in age from 32-49 (x=41). Ten were African American, five were Caucasian, and one was of Hispanic background.Findings suggest that from the women's perspective, the Military System was composed of three subsystems: the Military Career Subsystem, the Military Medical Subsystem, and the Social Support Subsystem. The Social Support Subsystem crossed between the military and civilian environments and was essential in assisting them in managing the demands of illness, career, and family. Despite expectations, they did not receive adequate support from the military community. The core process identified was that of balancing. Each informant attempted to balance information flow, time, and energy among the identified subsystems. Support from the chain of command varied greatly among the participants but appeared to be a critical element to successfully manage demands of treatment and careers.


Final report is available on NTRL: