Body Image, Quality of Life for Breast Cancer Survivors Improved by Intervention

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Body image issues and quality of life decline are common to survivors of breast cancer.
Body image issues and quality of life decline are common to survivors of breast cancer.

Breast cancer survivors who participated in the Restoring Body Image After Cancer (ReBIC) group intervention achieved improved body image and breast cancer-related quality of life (QOL) after 1 year, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Patients with breast cancer often experience significant disturbances in body image and quality of life after treatment. They often struggle with psychosocial and sexual dysfunction after undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

In this prospective study, researchers randomly assigned 194 breast cancer survivors who reported struggling with body image issues and sexual functioning to a ReBIC intervention (131 participants) or standard care plus educational reading materials (control; 63 participants). ReBIC was an 8-week program consisting of weekly 90-minute sessions aimed at improving personal identity and self-image difficulties, and facilitating emotional expressiveness and vicarious learning. These patients also received management strategies and information on body image issues and sexual functioning. Patients completed standardized questionnaires at baseline, 8 weeks, 6 months, and 12 months that evaluated body image, sexual functioning, and quality of life.

No significant differences were observed between the 2 study groups from baseline to 6 months when evaluating body image, but by 12 months women in the ReBIC group reported significantly lower levels of body image concerns compared with patients in the control group (P <.01).

Women in the ReBIC group also reported experiencing lower levels of stigma by 8 weeks (no differences were observed between the study group at 6 months or 12 months) and improved body vulnerability by 12 months as well.

Sexual dysfunction in the ReBIC intervention group was not significantly different from that of the women in the control group.

The authors concluded that ReBIC “is an effective method for addressing [body image]-related concerns and quality of life post-[breast cancer]. The manual-based intervention can be easily adapted to both cancer centers and primary care settings.”

Reference

Esplen MJ, Wong J, Warner E, et al. Restoring body image after cancer (ReBIC): results of a randomized controlled trial [published online January 22, 2018]. J Clin Oncol. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2017.74.8244

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