Influential Forces in Breast Cancer Surgical Decision Making and the Impact on Body Image and Sexual Function

UMMS Affiliation

Commonwealth Medicine, Center for Health Policy and Research; Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Services Research | Neoplasms | Oncology | Reproductive and Urinary Physiology | Surgery | Women's Health


BACKGROUND: Shared decision making with one's partner and body image satisfaction may affect surgical choices of breast cancer patients. This study analyzed whether partner opinion was associated with choice of operation and whether comfort level with one's partner was altered postoperatively.

METHODS: A prospective anonymous survey was administered to breast cancer patients who underwent breast surgery between 2000 and 2014. Categorical variables were compared by chi (2) or Fisher's exact test.

RESULTS: Women who elected to undergo mastectomy with reconstruction (MR) placed greater emphasis on their own decision making than on input from their partner, surgeon, or others (56.5 vs. 8.3 vs. 23.2 vs. 12, respectively), whereas those who chose lumpectomy (L) placed similar weight on surgeon input and self-input (44.2 vs. 42.7 %). Only 7.5 % of all patients identified their partner as the greatest influence on their surgical choice. Preoperatively, the L group was the most comfortable with their partner seeing their chest (91.9 % L vs. 83.9 % MR vs. 75.9 % mastectomy alone (M); p = 0.01), and postoperatively, the comfort levels for all were remarkably decreased. Furthermore, if a patient was a candidate for L but chose MR, the role her chest played in intimacy dropped more compared with those who chose L (83.8 % L vs. 91.7 % MR; p = 0.3 preoperatively to 65.1 % L vs. 42.9 % MR; p = 0.01 postoperatively).

CONCLUSIONS: When making surgical decisions, most patients indicate that they value their own opinion over that of others. Mastectomy, regardless of reconstruction, leads to a significant reduction in comfort with one's partner postoperatively compared with lumpectomy. This information may be helpful in counseling couples at the time of consultation for breast cancer treatment.


Breast Cancer Patient, Body Image, Sexual Function, Sexual Dysfunction, Sexual Functioning

DOI of Published Version



Ann Surg Oncol. 2016 Oct;23(10):3403-11. doi: 10.1245/s10434-016-5365-2. Epub 2016 Jun 30. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Annals of surgical oncology

PubMed ID


Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed