What are patients' goals and concerns about breast reconstruction after mastectomy?

Clara N. Lee, Charles Scott Hultman, Karen Sepucha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Discussions about breast reconstruction should include factual information and consideration of the patient's personal concerns. Providers are familiar with the relevant facts but may not know which personal concerns are important to patients. Experience with breast cancer patients has found that providers frequently do not know their patients treatment preferences. To help reconstructive surgeons discuss personal preferences with their patients, we sought to identify women's key concerns related to breast reconstruction.We employed a qualitative design and convened a sample of 65 women in 7 focus groups and 15 semi-structured interviews. Women with a recent history of early-stage breast cancer who had a mastectomy with or without reconstruction were included. A variety of backgrounds, including underserved populations, low education levels, and various ages were represented. Qualitative content analysis was performed, and key themes were identified.Five key themes emerged. (1) Magnitude of surgery and recovery. Many women reported that concerns over the number of operations, duration of recovery, and risk of complications strongly affected their decision-making. (2) Using one's own tissue. Several women felt comforted by the notion of using their own tissue for reconstruction. (3) Looking natural in clothing. Many women pointed out the difference between how they look in clothing versus how they look naked. (4) Avoiding an external prosthesis. Several women stressed practical concerns and framed the reconstruction decision in terms of not having to use prosthesis. (5) Considering others opinions. A few women reported that their partners' opinion strongly influenced their decision. Many women stated that they ultimately followed their doctor's recommendation.Women considering reconstruction have some unmet emotional and physical needs as well as important goals and concerns that can affect their decisions about and experience with reconstruction. In particular, some breast cancer patients are unprepared for the full effect of surgery on their lives and for the recovery process. Discussions about reconstruction would benefit from inclusion of these key concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-569
Number of pages3
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast reconstruction
  • Breast surgery
  • Decision making
  • Information needs
  • Qualitative
  • Quality of life
  • Recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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