Letter to my Body: What women with breast cancer wanted to tell their bodies
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week taking place from 13 - 19 May 2019 is body image – how we think and feel about our bodies.
It is well established that cancer and cancer related treatments often have a negative impact on appearance related outcomes. In recent years, increasing importance has been placed on understanding body image issues among people living with cancer and particularly among women with breast cancer in relation to surgical intervention and the visible difference this may cause. Body image is important to survivors of breast cancer, it’s how they think and feel about their body and how they think others value them. Approximately, 50% of women report body image difficulties up to five years after breast cancer surgery and these difficulties are consistently associated with psychological distress, anxiety, sexual dysfunction and impaired quality of life.
The body changes that women can experience include:
losing a part of your body
swelling of a body part
weight gain or weight loss
Hope 4 The Community CIC, Coventry University and Macmillan Cancer Support have developed a self-management programme to help cancer survivors with cancer come to terms with their body image concerns. During one of the activities -Letter to my body - in the Hope Programme women are invited to try to reconnect with their body by writing their thoughts and feelings about their body. The women reported improved body appearance and mental health issues after attending the Hope Programme.
Below are examples of the letters the women wrote
Participants on the Hope Programme report improved body appearance and mental health issues after attending.
Contact Macmillan Cancer Support to find out how to attend our cancer Hope Programme.
About the authors:
Professor Andy Turner Coventry University and CEO of Hope 4 The Community CiC is the Co Inventor of the Hope Programme. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Hannah Mathew’s, PhD explored women’s psychosocial outcomes following breast cancer surgery reconstruction. Contact: Hannah.email@example.com.
Mathews, H, Turner A, Williamson, I, & Clyne W. & It’s a silver lining”: A template analysis of satisfaction and quality of life following post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. Br J Health Psychol. 2018 May;23(2):455-475. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12299. Epub 2018 Mar 2.)
Hannah Matthews, Natalie Carroll, Derek Renshaw, Andrew Turner, Alan Park, Jo Skillman, Kate McCarthy, Elizabeth A. Grunfeld . Predictors of satisfaction and quality of life following post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. Psycho-Oncology.
Mathews, H., Grunfeld, E. A., & Turner, A. (2016). The efficacy of interventions to improve psychosocial outcomes following surgical treatment for breast cancer: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. Psycho‐Oncology, doi: 10.1002/pon.4199