A study of body image in long-term breast cancer survivors

Cancer. 2010 Aug 1;116(15):3549-57. doi: 10.1002/cncr.25251.


Background: In this controlled postdiagnosis study, the authors examined various aspects of body image of breast cancer survivors in cross-sectional and longitudinal designs.

Methods: In 2004 and 2007 the Body Image Scale (BIS) was completed by the same 248 disease-free women who had been treated for stage II and III breast cancer between 1998 and 2002. "Poorer" body image was defined as greater than the 70th percentile (N=76 women) of the BIS scores in contrast to "better" body image (N=172 women). Breast cancer survivors were examined clinically in 2004, and their BIS scores were compared with the scores from an age-matched group of women from the general population.

Results: In this cross-sectional study, poorer body image in 2004 was associated significantly with modified radical mastectomy, undergoing or planning to undergo breast-reconstructive surgery, a change in clothing, poor physical and mental health, chronic fatigue, and reduced quality of life (QoL). In univariate analyses, most of these factors and manually planned radiotherapy were significant predictors of poorer body image in 2007. In multivariate analyses, manually planned radiotherapy, poor physical QoL and high BIS score in 2004 remained independent predictors of a poorer body image in 2007. Body image ratings were relatively stable from 2004 to 2007. Twenty-one percent of breast cancer survivors reported body image dissatisfaction, similar to the proportion of dissatisfaction in controls.

Conclusions: 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. Body image ratings were relatively stable over time, and the antecedent body image score was a strong predictor of body image at follow-up. Body image in breast cancer survivors differed very little from that in controls.

MeSH terms

  • Body Image*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Mastectomy, Modified Radical / psychology
  • Mastectomy, Segmental / psychology
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Survivors*