Date of Award

May 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Katie E. Mosack

Committee Members

W. Hobart Davies, Diane M. Reddy, Sarah W. Morgan


Breast Cancer, Feminist Theory, Gender, Lesbian, Qualitative


Sexual minority women are at a significantly greater risk for developing breast cancer (BC) than heterosexual women. Little is known about the unique BC experiences of lesbian women. The present thesis describes the findings of an inductive thematic analysis of messages posted to a large lesbian-specific discussion forum found on Fifteen themes were identified, including privileging sensation over appearance, experiencing heterosexism in medical contexts, believing others perceive a lack of distress over breast loss because of patient’s lesbian sexual orientation, feeling pressure from surgeons to get reconstructive surgery, and viewing the BC journey as a sexual-identity disclosure crisis. In addition, gender expression appeared to moderate the lesbian patients’ experience of BC. For instance, a theme identified among butch-or gender variant patients was enjoying or accepting that others were confused about their gender post-surgery. Femme-lesbian patients, in contrast, reported being frustrated about gender misidentification resulting from breast and hair loss.