Rejection of Breast Reconstruction Among Lesbian Breast Cancer Patients / / Wandrey Rachael L., Qualls Whitney D., and Mosack Katie E.. LGBT Health. December 2015, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/lgbt.2015.0091.
Purpose: After having breast cancer (BC) and being treated by mastectomy, patients typically struggle with decisions about reconstruction. It is unclear how lesbian-identified women think about breast reconstruction. The purpose of this study was to explore lesbian BC survivors’ attitudes toward breast reconstruction. This study represents the first published study to analyze data from a lesbian-specific BC forum to evaluate such attitudes. Methods: We conducted an inductive thematic analysis of breast reconstruction discussions among individuals who posted to a lesbian-specific online support forum found on breastcancer.org, the largest online support venue for BC survivors. Two hundred fifty-five users posted to the lesbian-specific forum; 53 of these users discussed breast reconstruction and were included in the present analysis. We analyzed a total of 168 posts. Results: Our analysis revealed five important themes related to breast reconstruction attitudes as follows: (1) rejecting being defined by their body image, (2) privileging sensation over appearance, (3) believing that being breastless is protective, (4) perceiving their social context as supportive of nonreconstruction, and (5) feeling pressured by social norms to undergo reconstructive surgery. Conclusions: Among postings in the lesbian-specific online support forum, attitudes related to the rejection of breast reconstruction were pervasive. Provider communication should be evaluated for heterosexist biases, such as the implication that breast reconstruction should be a part of a normal course of treatment. In addition, providers must acknowledge that breast reconstruction is value laden and the range of viable treatment and construction options, including the decision not to reconstruct, should be presented in a nonbiased neutral way.