Partner relationships after mastectomy in women not offered breast reconstruction

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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 influence of mastectomy on patient sex lives and partnership relations.


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.


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 satisfied with their sexual intercourse.


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. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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