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Body Image. 2013 Jun;10(3):344-51. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.02.002. Epub 2013 Mar 13.

Surviving breast cancer: women's experiences with their changed bodies.

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School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Canada.


In this study, we explored women's experiences with their bodies following treatment for breast cancer. Eleven women who had been treated for the disease (M(time since treatment)=4.45 years) were interviewed. Data were collected and analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (Smith et al., 2009). Four main themes emerged from the data: changing visibly and invisibly; experiencing intense thoughts and emotions; meaning of the body: a vehicle of health, well-being, and social expression; and managing and dealing with physical changes. Overall, the women experienced various physical changes that shaped, mostly in a negative way, their perceptions, thoughts, attitudes, feelings, and beliefs about their bodies. The women described attempts to make positive lifestyle behavior choices (e.g., diet, participate in physical activity), and used other strategies (e.g., wigs, make-up, clothes) to manage their appearances and restore positive body-related experiences. Based on these findings, it is important to be cognizant of women's body image concerns following breast cancer given the poignant and lasting effects they can have on their psychosocial and emotional well-being.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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