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Delaying breast reconstruction after cancer may raise patients' anxiety

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(HealthDay News) -- Breast reconstruction immediately after breast removal surgery due to cancer may help reduce a patient's mental distress, a new study suggests.

This approach isn't always an option. However, the study finding suggests that immediate breast reconstruction "may protect breast cancer patients from a period of psychosocial distress, poor body image, and diminished sexual well-being, compared to those waiting" for delayed reconstruction, said Dr. Toni Zhong and colleagues at the University of Toronto.

The study included 106 breast cancer patients who underwent breast removal surgery followed by breast reconstruction. Thirty patients had reconstruction during the same surgery as breast removal, while 76 had delayed breast reconstruction, an average of three years after the mastectomy.

Before mastectomy, 26 percent of study participants had increased levels of anxiety and 9 percent had increased levels of depression symptoms. In both groups of patients, anxiety decreased after breast reconstruction, the study authors found.

However, after mastectomy, women in the delayed breast reconstruction group scored lower on body image, sexuality and health-related quality of life, which suggests they experienced mental stress while waiting for breast reconstruction, the study authors said.

Six months after breast reconstruction, however, there was no longer any difference in body image between the two groups, and there were no differences in sexuality scores at 12 and 18 months after reconstruction, Zhong's team reported.

The study was published in the October issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Delayed breast reconstruction is more common in Canada than in the United States, the study authors noted in a journal news release.

Zhong and colleagues concluded that for patients who are good candidates for immediate breast reconstruction and are strongly motivated, "every effort should be made to coordinate immediate breast reconstruction with mastectomy."

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

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