Renegotiating sexual intimacy in the context of altered embodiment:the experiences of women with breast cancer and their male partners following mastectomy and reconstruction


OBJECTIVE: Breast cancer diagnosis and treatments can have a profound impact upon women's well-being, body image, and sexual functioning, but less is known about the relational context of their coping and the impact upon their intimate partners. Our study focuses upon couples' experiences of breast cancer surgery, and its impact on body image and sexual intimacy. METHOD: Utilizing a dyadic design, we conducted 8 semistructured individual interviews, with 4 long-term heterosexual couples, after the women had undergone mastectomy with reconstruction. Interviews explored both partners' experiences of diagnosis, decision-making, and experiences of body image and sexual intimacy. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was adopted; this is a qualitative research approach characterized by in-depth analysis of the personal meaning of experiences. RESULTS: Findings illustrate the positive acceptance that partners may express toward their wives' postsurgical bodies. They illuminate ways in which gendered coping styles and normative sexual scripts may shape couples' negotiations of intimacy around "altered embodiment." Reciprocal communication styles were important for couples' coping. The management of expectations regarding breast reconstruction may also be helpful. CONCLUSIONS: The insights from the dyadic, multiple perspective design suggest that psychologists must situate the meaning of supportive relationships and other protective factors in the context of complex life events and histories, in order to understand and support people's developing responses to distress. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
College of Health & Life Sciences
College of Health & Life Sciences > Chronic and Communicable Conditions
Additional Information: © 2015 APA, all rights reserved. This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Uncontrolled Keywords: breast cancer,coping,dyads,qualitative,relationships,Psychiatry and Mental health,Applied Psychology
Publication ISSN: 1930-7810
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2024 07:11
Date Deposited: 26 May 2015 09:25
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Related URLs: http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2015-04
Authors: Loaring, Jessica M.
Larkin, Michael
Shaw, Rachel (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-0438-7666)
Flowers, Paul



Version: Accepted Version

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