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J Clin Oncol. 2008 Jul 10;26(20):3331-7. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2007.13.1375.

Effect of esthetic outcome after breast-conserving surgery on psychosocial functioning and quality of life.

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Sections of General Surgery and Plastic Surgery, Department of Surgery; Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.



Although breast-conserving surgery (BCS) is often assumed to result in minimal deformity, many patients report postoperative breast asymmetry. Understanding the effect of asymmetry on psychosocial functioning is essential for patients to make an informed choice for surgery.


All women who underwent BCS at the University of Michigan Medical Center (Ann Arbor, MI) during a 4-year period were surveyed using a mailed questionnaire (N = 714; response rate = 79.5%). Women were queried regarding five aspects of psychosocial functioning: quality of life (QOL), depression, fear of recurrence, stigmatization, and perceived change in health status. Postoperative breast asymmetry was assessed using items from the Breast Cancer Treatment and Outcomes Survey. Multiple regression was used to examine the relationship between breast asymmetry and each outcome, controlling for age, time from surgery in years, race, education level, disease stage, surgical treatment, and the occurrence of postoperative complications.


Women with pronounced breast asymmetry were significantly more likely to feel stigmatized as a result of their breast cancer treatment (odds ratio [OR] = 4.58; 95% CI, 2.77 to 7.55) and less likely to report unchanged or improved health after treatment (OR = 0.43; 95% CI, 0.27 to 0.66). Minimal breast asymmetry was associated with higher QOL scores (86.3 v 82.4, P < .001). Finally, women with pronounced breast asymmetry were more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms (minimal asymmetry, 16.2%; moderate asymmetry, 18.0%; pronounced asymmetry, 33.7%, Wald test = 16.6; P = .002).


Pronounced breast asymmetry after BCS is significantly correlated with poor psychosocial functioning. Identifying patients at risk for postoperative asymmetry at the time of consultation may allow for improved referral for supportive counseling, prosthetics, and reconstruction.

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