Breast Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Fear and Worry Over Breast Cancer Among Women Facing Surgical Decisions

By: Meg Barbor, MPH
Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Prior to surgery, women with breast cancer who elected to undergo contralateral prophylactic mastectomy had higher cancer distress, cancer worry, and body image concerns than women who did not elect to have the surgery. After surgery, contralateral prophylactic mastectomy was associated with greater body image distress and poorer quality of life, according to research published by Patricia A. Parker, PhD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and colleagues, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In the prospective study, 288 women with unilateral, nonhereditary breast cancer provided questionnaire data; 50 of them underwent contralateral prophylactic mastectomy. Based on the results, the researchers maintained that fear and worry about breast cancer may be foremost concerns at the time surgical decisions are made, and women may not anticipate the effect of contralateral prophylactic mastectomy on quality of life. According to the investigators, these results are highly relevant to clinical practice and should be used to facilitate informed discussions between women and their physicians regarding the procedure, especially as the incidence of contralateral prophylactic mastectomy continues to increase.

“Incorporating discussions about psychosocial outcomes, such as cancer worry, quality of life, and body image concerns, in addition to clinical outcomes, may enable women to fully consider the psychosocial effect of having contralateral prophylactic mastectomy,” Dr. Parker and colleagues concluded. “For women experiencing high levels of cancer worry, psychological interventions that directly address cancer worry and concerns about body image may be warranted.”

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