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Plast Surg Nurs. 2012 Jul-Aug;32(3):101-5.

Communication between breast cancer patients and their physicians about breast-related body image issues.

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Medical College of Wisconsin, Wauwatosa 53226, USA.


Breast cancer patients encounter body image changes throughout their diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from breast cancer. No prospective studies were identified investigating communication between physicians and breast cancer patients related to body image. This qualitative pilot study determines (1) how breast cancer patients prefer their physicians communicate regarding body image changes and (2) how comfortable physicians are in discussing body image issues with their patients. Data were collected from patients over 12 weeks through the breast evaluation questionnaire (BEQ), a valid and reliable instrument, and a qualitative questionnaire. Ten physicians completed a qualitative questionnaire. The data were analyzed using frequency analysis. Nearly 70% of the patients reported there was more the physician could do to improve patient comfort in discussing breast-related body image concerns. Honesty, openness, and directness were important to the patients. Thirty-three percent of the patients answered that their physicians should be honest, open, and direct while discussing these issues. On a five-point Likert scale (1 = very uncomfortable and 5 = very comfortable), the physicians most frequently answered a 4 when asked how comfortable they are speaking about breast-related body image issues; however, only four out of 10 always address the topic themselves during the patient's visit. These data suggest that patients want honesty, openness, and directness from their physicians during the discussion of breast-related body image issues. The physicians report they are comfortable speaking about breast-related body image issues; yet, they do not directly initiate the topic.

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