Influences on Satisfaction with Reconstructed Breasts and Intimacy in Younger Women Following Bilateral Prophylactic Mastectomy: a Qualitative Analysis

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Abstract

Purpose: The aim of this study was to explore the influences on satisfaction with reconstructed breasts and intimacy following bilateral prophylactic mastectomy (BPM) in younger women (< 35) with a strong family history of breast cancer. Methods: Twenty-six women who had undergone BPM between 1 and6 years ago were recruited from New Zealand and Australia through a genetics clinic, registry, research cohort, and online (Mage = 31). Twenty-three were BRCA mutation carriers. Qualitative interviews guided by interpretative phenomenological analysis were conducted. Results: Four themes were identified: satisfaction with breasts before surgery, outcome expectations, type of mastectomy, and open communication. Women who liked their breasts pre-BPM appeared less satisfied with their reconstructed breasts post-surgery, and women who disliked their breasts before BPM were more satisfied with their reconstructed breasts. Women with unrealistic expectations concerning the look and feel of reconstructed breasts were often unhappy with their reconstructed breasts and felt they did not meet their expectations. Unrealistic photos of breast reconstruction and satisfactory communication of realistic outcome expectations by surgeons or psychologists also appeared to influence satisfaction. Communication with partners prior to BPM appeared to improve satisfaction with intimacy post-BPM. Conclusions: The findings suggest that satisfaction with reconstructed breasts for younger women post-BPM appeared to be influenced by realistic outcome expectations and communication with others concerning reconstructed breast appearance and intimacy post-BPM. Implications for practice include discussion of realistic reconstructed breast appearance, referral to a psychologist to discuss sensitive issues, and accurate communication of surgical risks and consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-398
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Volume25
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018

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