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26-07-2010 | Oncology | Article

Multiple factors affect body image in long-term breast cancer survivors

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: Poor body image in long-term breast cancer survivors is associated with the type of surgery received and local body changes after treatment, as well as mental distress, reduced health, and impaired quality of life (QoL), researchers report.

To investigate how breast cancer and its treatment affects body image, Alv Dahl (The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo, Norway) and colleagues studied 248 disease-free women who had been treated for stage II and III breast cancer between 1998 and 2002.

In 2004 and 2007 the women completed the Body Image Scale (BIS). The researchers defined poorer body image (n=76) as greater than the 70th percentile of the BIS scores, while better body image (n=172) was defined as below the 70th percentile.

Cross-sectional examination of the patients in 2004 revealed that poorer body image was significantly associated with modified radical mastectomy, undergoing or planning to undergo breast-reconstructive surgery, a change in clothing, poor physical and mental health, chronic fatigue, and impaired QoL.

Most of these factors, plus manually planned radiotherapy, were also significant predictors of poorer body image in 2007. In multivariate analyses, manually planned radiotherapy, poor physical QoL, and a high BIS score in 2004 remained independent predictors of a poorer body image in 2007.

Dahl et al found that body image ratings were relatively stable over time, 32% of patients with a poorer body image in 2004 reported better body image in 2007, while 9% of patients with better body image in 2004 reported a poorer body image in 2007.

In 2004, 21% of breast cancer survivors reported dissatisfaction with at least one aspect of their body image. This figure did not differ significantly from an age-matched control group of women without cancer, where 14% were unhappy with their body image.

"In this cross-sectional analysis, body image in breast cancer survivors was associated with the types of surgery and radiotherapy and with mental distress, reduced health, and impaired QoL," write Dahl and co-authors in the journal Cancer.

"Body image ratings were relatively stable over time, and the antecedent body image score was a strong predictor of body image at follow-up," they conclude.

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Laura Dean

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