Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 23, Issue 11, pp 3115–3130 | Cite as

Women’s experiences of hormonal therapy for breast cancer: exploring influences on medication-taking behaviour

  • Caitriona Cahir
  • Stephan U. Dombrowski
  • Catherine M. Kelly
  • M. John Kennedy
  • Kathleen Bennett
  • Linda Sharp
Original Article



Five to 10 years of adjuvant hormonal therapy is recommended to prevent breast cancer recurrence. This study investigated modifiable influences on adjuvant hormonal therapy medication-taking behaviour (MTB) in women with stage I–III breast cancer.


Semi-structured face-to-face interviews among women with stage I–III breast cancer prescribed adjuvant hormonal therapy purposively sampled by their MTB at two cancer centres. Thematic analysis was conducted based on the Framework approach, with the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) informing the analysis framework; the TDF is an integrative framework consisting of 14 domains of behavioural change to inform intervention design.


Thirty-one women participated in interviews (14 adherent/persistent; 7 non-adherent/persistent; 10 non-persistent). Three domains identified both barriers and enablers to hormonal therapy MTB across the three MTB strata: beliefs about consequences, intentions and goals and behaviour regulation, but their influence was different across the strata. Other domains influenced individual MTB strata. Key enablers for adherent/persistent women were identified within the domain beliefs about consequences (breast cancer recurrence), intentions and goals (high-priority), beliefs about capabilities (side effects) and behaviour regulation (managing medication). Barriers were identified within the domain behaviour regulation (no routine), memory, attention and decision processes (forgetting) and environmental context and resources (stressors) for non-adherent/persistent women and intentions and goals (quality of life), behaviour regulation (temporal self-regulation), reinforcement, beliefs about consequences (non-necessity) and social influences (clinical support) for non-persistent women.


This study identified modifiable influences on hormonal therapy MTB. Targeting these influences in clinical practice may improve MTB and hence survival in this population.


Hormonal therapy Medication-taking behaviour Adherence Breast cancer 



We wish to thank all of the women at the two cancer centres who kindly gave their time to participate in this study. We wish to acknowledge Aileen Timmons who helped develop the coding index for this study.


CC is Health Research Board, Ireland (HRB) ICE fellow (ICE/2011/9) and this grant funded data collection.

Conflict of interests

All authors have nothing to declare.


CC, KB, MJK, CMK and LS planned and designed the study. CC and AT developed the coding index. CC and SD analysed and interpreted the study data. CC drafted the manuscript. CC, SD, CMK, MJK, KB and LS critically reviewed and approved the final manuscript. CC is guarantor.

Ethical approval

Ethical approval was obtained from the individual hospital Research Ethics Boards and all participants provided informed consent.

Independence of researchers

All authors and their affiliated institutions are independent of the Health Research Board.

Access to the data

All authors had full access to all of the data in the study and can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caitriona Cahir
    • 1
  • Stephan U. Dombrowski
    • 2
  • Catherine M. Kelly
    • 3
  • M. John Kennedy
    • 4
  • Kathleen Bennett
    • 1
  • Linda Sharp
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology and TherapeuticsTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  2. 2.Division of PsychologyUniversity of StirlingStirlingScotland
  3. 3.Medical Oncology, Mater University HospitalIreland and University College DublinDublinIreland
  4. 4.Medical Oncology, St James’s HospitalIreland and Trinity College DublinDublinIreland
  5. 5.National Cancer Registry IrelandCorkIreland

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