Author(s): Rowland JH
BACKGROUND: Tissue-sparing approaches to primary treatment and reconstructive options provide improved cosmetic outcomes for women with breast cancer. Earlier research has suggested that conservation or restitution of the breast might mitigate the negative effects of breast cancer on women's sexual well-being. Few studies, however, have compared psychosocial outcomes of women who underwent lumpectomy, mastectomy alone, or mastectomy with reconstruction. To address some of these issues, we examined women's adaptation to surgery in two large cohorts of breast cancer survivors.
METHODS: A total of 1957 breast cancer survivors (1-5 years after diagnosis) from two major metropolitan areas were assessed in two waves with the use of a self-report questionnaire that included a number of standardized measures of health-related quality of life, body image, and physical and sexual functioning. All P: values are two-sided. RESULTS: More than one half (57%) of the women underwent lumpectomy, 26% had mastectomy alone, and 17% had mastectomy with reconstruction. As in earlier studies, women in the mastectomy with reconstruction group were younger than those in the lumpectomy or mastectomy-alone groups (mean ages = 50.3, 55.9, and 58.9, respectively; P: =.0001); they were also more likely to have a partner and to be college educated, affluent, and white. Women in both mastectomy groups complained of more physical symptoms related to their surgeries than women in the lumpectomy group. However, the groups did not differ in emotional, social, or role function. Of interest, women in the mastectomy with reconstruction group were most likely to report that breast cancer had had a negative impact on their sex lives (45.4% versus 29.8% for lumpectomy and 41.3% for mastectomy alone; P: =. 0001).
CONCLUSIONS: The psychosocial impact of type of primary surgery for breast cancer occurs largely in areas of body image and feelings of attractiveness, with women receiving lumpectomy experiencing the most positive outcome. Beyond the first year after diagnosis, a woman's quality of life is more likely influenced by her age or exposure to adjuvant therapy than by her breast surgery.