Staring at My Body: The Experience of Body Reconstruction in Breast Cancer Long-term Survivors

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Abstract

Background:

Breast cancer takes time for its survivors after a mastectomy to adjust to their changed bodies. There are limited studies about the process of how those survivors accept the changes of their bodies and how they reestablish their new selves.

Objective:

The aim of this study was to understand the perception of body from women diagnosed with breast cancer more than 5 years previously and whose treatment included a mastectomy.

Methods:

A phenomenological method was applied to this study. Women who received a mastectomy at least 5 years previously were invited to participate. Eight participants were recruited from southern Taiwan.

Results:

Twenty transcripts were obtained and analyzed using Colaizzi’s method. Three themes were obtained from the data analysis: “restoration of the body image,” “abandonment of objectification,” and “redefinition of self.” Subthemes were also identified and described.

Conclusion:

The results indicate that women with breast cancer have embodied the recovering experience to a new self and have adapted to identify their new bodies. They overcome being a female body with an absent breast(s) by discovering the value of their existence and being free from self-objectification.

Implications for Practice:

This study contributes to the understanding of the perception of body in long-term breast cancer survivors, which reflects the process of adjusting to the loss of a breast/breasts to reconstructing a new body experience. Health professionals could help and encourage women undergoing a mastectomy to engage in self-recovery by searching for and affirming self-value.

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