Understanding the Essential Meaning of Measured Changes in Weight and Body Composition Among Women During and After Adjuvant Treatment for Breast Cancer: A Mixed-Methods Study

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Changes in weight and body composition among women during and after adjuvant antineoplastic treatment for breast cancer may influence long-term survival and quality of life. Research on factual weight changes is diverse and contrasting, and their influence on women’s perception of body and self seems to be insufficiently explored.


The aim of this study was to expand the understanding of the association between changes in weight and body composition and the women’s perception of body and selves.


A mixed-methods research design was used. Data consisted of weight and body composition measures from 95 women with breast cancer during 18 months past surgery. Twelve women from this cohort were interviewed individually at 12 months. Linear mixed model and logistic regression were used to estimate changes of repeated measures and odds ratio. Interviews were analyzed guided by existential phenomenology.


Joint displays and integrative mixed-methods interpretation demonstrated that even small weight gains, extended waist, and weight loss were associated with fearing recurrence of breast cancer. Perceiving an ambiguous transforming body, the women moved between a unified body subject and the body as an object dissociated in “I” and “it” while fighting against or accepting the body changes.


Integrating findings demonstrated that factual weight changes do not correspond with the perceived changes and may trigger existential threats.

Implications for Practice:

Transition to a new habitual body demand health practitioners to enter a joint narrative work to reveal how the changes impact on the women’s body and self-perception independent of how they are displayed quantitatively.

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