The impact of influential life events and current issues on decision-making for breast cancer reconstructive surgery.

Katherine Swainston, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Jorien Bonnema, Anna Van Wersch

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Objective: To explore the impact of influential life events and current issues on women’s decision-making process for breast reconstructive surgery.

Design: A qualitative approach with the data collection methods of expressive writing and semi-structured interviews. Interview transcripts were analysed with reflexive thematic analysis.

Methods: Ten women with newly diagnosed breast cancer requiring mastectomy were asked to write a personal account of recent life events and current issues that they felt may influence their decision-making for breast reconstructive surgery. The written accounts were used as a tool to facilitate emotional reflection and expression within semi-structured interviews.

Results: Four themes were derived from data analysis: Family and caring responsibilities, fear of complications, normality and moving on, and confidence in expressing views. Women described family circumstances including their roles, responsibilities, and support as a key factor influencing decision-making processes regarding all available reconstruction options. This was linked to a need to regain a normal life and move on as quickly as possible. The fear of post-surgical complications and further surgeries was viewed as potentially limiting this return to normality and was a prevailing concern for women who chose not to undergo reconstructive surgery. Support from healthcare professionals was integral to women’s discussions yet they reported difficulties expressing their views about reconstruction decision-making within medical and personal contexts.

Conclusions: The findings highlight the complexity of the decision-making processes of women with breast cancer while making decisions pertaining to reconstructive surgery. Autobiographical accounts were a useful tool during the interview process to explore women’s experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 Mar 2021
EventDivision of Health Psychology Annual Conference 2021 -
Duration: 29 Jun 202130 Jun 2021


ConferenceDivision of Health Psychology Annual Conference 2021


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