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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • experience;
  • body image;
  • therapeutic massage

Mastectomy, body image and therapeutic massage: a qualitative study of women's experience

Despite the wealth of literature concerning the impact of breast loss on a woman's body image, sexual and psychological adjustment, there have been few studies within the medical and nursing literature directly quoting a woman's private perspective; how in her words she experiences her changed body. Furthermore, there is a lack of evidence-based interventions for addressing the problem of altered body image (ABI); healthcare professionals often feel at a loss in knowing how to help women cope ( Hopwood & Maguire 1988). In this study in-depth interviews were undertaken to explore three women's experiences of breast loss with particular focus on body image issues; a second phase piloted a massage intervention as a means of helping them adjust to living with their changed body image. Listening to their experience, in combination with the therapeutic massage, allowed deep access and insight into the nature of the women's trauma. The experiences of the three women in this study suggest there may be a group of women whose needs are overlooked and who, despite their prosthesis and reassurances that they are disease-free, opt to conceal the problems they have in living with a changed image. The availability of a body-centred therapy might help with certain aspects of adjustment as revealed by this study.