A fellow patient recently told me about the work of a Clinical Psychology PhD candidate studying breast cancer surgery and body image. Helen La Vesconte is looking for women who are about to undergo mastectomy with or without reconstruction to help her research:
"As part of the University of Southampton, researchers and clinicians are interested in studying the beliefs that people have about their appearance and its influence on their life. Body image and concern about appearance can have a significant impact on people’s mental and physical health."Helen notes:
"The Australian National Breast Cancer Centre suggested in 2004 that all BCNs (breast care nurses) and cancer services should highlight potential problems in body image and sexuality following surgery. There was a similar thing in a 2008 UK paper, basically saying that what cancer services considered "psychological distress" needed to be broadened to include body image and sexual difficulties following treatment."Although so many women struggle with body image after losing a breast, in the UK at least there is still not consistent psychological support or preparation for that loss. Services vary wildly. Body Image Research has a Facebook page that proves there's a gap that needs to be filled; over a thousand women have signed up simply to share their experiences of body image issues, and for some it seems there is simply no other outlet. It's a fantastic thing to be able to rid the body of breast cancer. I think it would be a fantastic thing if we could rid our minds of the peculiar shame that too often ensues after surgery and treatment. I hope this study goes some way towards making that happen.
You can find out more about the study or sign up at BodyImageResearch.org.uk.