University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Preventing the Worst

Women who undergo preventive double mastectomies suffer low psychological distress

Women at high risk of developing breast cancer who have preventive double mastectomies suffer minimal psychological distress as a result, according to a U of T study published in the journal Psycho-Oncology.

Two-thirds of the 60 women surveyed said that the surgery had no impact on their sexual functioning. And while almost half (49 per cent) of the women reported no change in self-image, 28 per cent reported that the surgery actually improved their self-image. “If a woman knows she’s not going to be horribly depressed or suffer body-image problems after surgery, it is very encouraging to her,” says Professor Kelly Metcalfe of the Faculty of Nursing.

Metcalfe and her research team surveyed half of the 120 women in Ontario who had preventive double mastectomies between 1991 and 2000. The next step, says Metcalfe, is to determine if there is a significant difference between the women who elect to have double mastectomies and those who choose not to undergo surgery.

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