A roadmap for patient-public involvement and engagement (PPIE): recounting the untold stories of breast cancer patient experiences

Margaret R Cunningham, Nicholas JW Rattray, Yvonne McFadden, Domenica Berardi, Patricia E Kelly, Karim Daramy, Allison Galbraith, Isobel Lochiel, Lorraine Mills, Yvonne Scott, Susan Chalmers, Alison Lannigan, Zahra Rattray

Research output: Working paperWorking Paper/Preprint

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Introduction Breast cancer remains a prevalent disease in women worldwide. Though significant advancements in the standard of care for breast cancer have contributed to improved patient survival and quality of life, a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment interventions have a long-lasting impact on patients’ lived experiences. A high-quality healthcare system uses a patient-centred approach to healthcare, with patient engagement being a central pillar in the delivery of patient-centred care. However, the disconnect between patients and researchers can translate into research lacking real-world relevance to patient health needs. Here, we report a patient and stakeholder engagement workshop series that was conceptualized with the goal of promoting dialogue between patients with breast cancer, breast cancer researchers and the clinician involved in their care. We present the collaborative learning process and emerging opportunities from this patient engagement workshop series as a community-academic partnership.

Method We report on a three-part storytelling workshop, with the scope of the workshops including topics related to raising awareness of the patient lived experience following a breast cancer diagnosis, breast cancer research activities undertaken by researchers, and the approach used by multidisciplinary healthcare teams in the management of breast cancer using storytelling as a tool. We used an iterative approach to cohort trust and relationship building, narrative development, and the use of multiple media formats to capture patient stories. This included the use of object memories, storytelling prompt cards and open-mic audio format to capture patient stories from diagnosis to treatment, and remission.

Results 20 patients shared their stories with key themes emerging from the qualitative analysis of audio recordings. For many, this was the first time they had spoken about their breast cancer experience beyond family and friends. Emerging themes included common public misconceptions about a breast cancer diagnosis, the importance of self-advocacy in patient decision making about treatment, and the complex emotional journey experienced by patients diagnosed with breast cancer. The group-based storytelling approach provided collective empowerment to share personal experiences and connect meaningfully across the peer community.

Conclusion While a breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming from a physical, social, emotional and cognitive perspective, storytelling as a patient engagement approach can build patient trust in researchers, ensuring that as key stakeholders they are involved in the process of research. Understanding the patient perspective of a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent experiences can support healthcare professionals in developing an empathetic approach to sharing information, and involving patients in shared decision making about their healthcare.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationIthaca, New York
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2023


  • breast cancer
  • public engagement
  • storytelling


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