Breast Reconstruction following Mastectomy for Breast Cancer: The Decisions of Sexual Minority Women

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Abstract

Background:

Prior research on decision-making for reconstructive surgery after mastectomy has not addressed the specific considerations of sexual minority women (women who partner with women, and lesbian or bisexual identified women). The purpose of this study is to explore which issues sexual minority women considered when making decisions on reconstructive surgery and to understand the influence and perspectives of these women’s most important support persons.

Methods:

Study participants were recruited through targeted community-based sampling. The authors conducted individual semistructured interviews with 15 sexual minority women who had been treated with mastectomy after breast cancer diagnosis and 12 support persons who were identified by these women as their most important source of support. Using qualitative data analysis software, transcribed interviews were analyzed. Through constant comparison methods, themes related to the decision on and experiences and satisfaction with reconstructive choice were identified from the narrative data.

Results:

The considerations of women who decided for or against reconstruction are rooted in a value system and body image shaped by their sexual minority identity. Women who chose reconstruction experienced difficulties and regrets, whereas women without reconstruction adjusted well after time. Partners of sexual minority women matched the level of satisfaction with reconstructive choice achieved by the women themselves.

Conclusion:

Providers who treat sexual minority women might benefit from knowing about issues important to this population to provide more comprehensive care.

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