The protective effect of a satisfying romantic relationship on women's body image after breast cancer: a longitudinal study

Psychooncology. 2017 Jun;26(6):836-842. doi: 10.1002/pon.4238. Epub 2016 Sep 4.


Objective: To examine the protective role of relationship satisfaction on body image in women with breast cancer throughout the first year post-surgery.

Methods: Seventy-four Swiss patients engaged in a relationship filled out a questionnaire assessing body image disturbance 2 weeks, 3 months, and 1 year after surgery. A univariate latent change score model was used to analyze the evolution of body image disturbance and the contribution of relationship satisfaction to body image disturbance.

Results: Women who were satisfied with their relationship reported less body image disturbance than did dissatisfied women at 2 weeks post-surgery. Being married was also associated with less body image disturbance at that time. The protective effect of these relational variables was still observable 1 year later. Changes in body image disturbance over time were explained by the negative impacts of mastectomy and chemotherapy.

Conclusions: How women perceive the impact of breast cancer treatment on their body may be partly determined by the quality of the relational context in which they live.

Keywords: body image; breast cancer; longitudinal trajectories; marital status; oncology; relationship satisfaction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Protective Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland