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Abstract

Background: Among a sample of African American women recently diagnosed with breast cancer, we assessed the consequences of different treatment regimens on sexual attractiveness concerns, and the impact of sexual attractiveness concerns on current and subsequent psychological adjustment. Patients and Methods: The sample included 91 African American women with breast cancer; 90% had Stage I or II disease, 48% had chemotherapy, 47% had a lumpectomy, and 53% received a mastectomy. Feelings of sexual attractiveness and psychological adjustment were assessed an average of 3 months following surgery and again 4 months post-baseline. Results: Regression analyses revealed that chemotherapy was associated with greater concerns about sexual attractiveness among lumpectomy patients (p<0.05), but not among mastectomy patients (p>0.20). The interaction also suggested that chemotherapy equalized the impact of types of surgery, as there was no difference on sexual attractiveness between surgery groups among women who had received chemotherapy (p>0.20). However, among women who had not received chemotherapy, mastectomy patients reported greater sexual attractiveness concerns (p<0.01). Finally, regression analyses revealed that feelings of sexual attractiveness were an important component of psychological well-being, both cross-sectionally (p<0.001) and longitudinally (p<0.001). Conclusion: Assessment of the combined impact of different treatment regimens on feelings of sexual attractiveness is particularly important given the current consensus that all breast cancer patients should receive chemotherapy, regardless of nodal status. Further, concerns about sexual attractiveness should be considered for inclusion as one component of psychosocial support programs for African American women with breast cancer, as our results suggested that they played a significant role in psychological adjustment. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.