Intimacy after Mastectomy
This is a rather discouraging study from Psych-Oncology about the impact of mastectomy (without reconstruction) on intimate relationships. The title of the article suggests that the studied women were not offered reconstruction, but that was not so clear in the body of the article. I suspect that factor, if true, would make a major difference and helps me understand the conclusions. By and large, women who consider all their choices and opt not to have reconstruction are, if not happy, at least content with the decision. If, on the other hand, a woman feels railroaded into a mastectomy without reconstruction, I can easily imagine she would be less comfortable with her body. FYI: there is a marvelous website for women who have opted not to have reconstruction: www.breastfree.org
Here is the abstract from the study and a link to read more:
Partner relationships after mastectomy in women not offered
Ewa Andrzejczak, Krystyna Markocka-Maczka and Andrzej Lewandowski* Silesian Piasts University of Medicine in Wroclaw, Department of Gastrointestinal and General Surgery, Wroclaw, Poland
Backgroud: The present study assessed the degree to which undergoing a mastectomy without reconstructive surgery negatively impacts the patient's psychological state. We focus on body image and self-esteem as well as the in!uence of mastectomy on patient sex lives and partnership relations.
Methods: The participants were 60 women, either married or in a relationship, who had had a mastectomy because of breast cancer and no subsequent reconstructive surgery. A marital happiness questionnaire was used to evaluate the research problem.
Results: Surgery negatively impacted partnership relations for 33% of participants. In particular, 31% reported deterioration in attractiveness; 31%, a feeling of malaise; and 30%, that their partners perceived them as less attractive. Moreover, 80% in the youngest group reported that they covered their body during intimate contact, whereas 58% in the oldest age group reported the same behaviour.
Deterioration in satisfaction with sex life and in the pleasure of sexual intercourse was indicated by 71% and 77%, respectively. Correspondingly, 71% also noticed a decrease in sexual activity, with 76% of participants aged 50-65 years reporting such a decline. The oldest women were also less satis"ed with their sexual intercourse.
Conclusions: Breast excision due to cancer negatively impacted the quality of sexual life for 71% of participants. Partnership relations after surgery remained unchanged for 67% of them. There was significant impact of surgery on the perception of one's own body.