"A struggle between vanity and life": The experience of receiving breast reconstruction in women of Taiwan

  • Fang S
  • Balneaves L
  • Shu B
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BACKGROUND: Understanding the role of sociocultural factors on women's experiences of breast reconstruction is needed to provide better care and avoid erroneous assumptions of these women's needs.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to understand the lived experiences of Taiwanese women with breast cancer who receive breast reconstruction following mastectomy in Taiwan.

METHODS: A qualitative research design, guided by the philosophy of hermeneutic phenomenology, was selected to guide the study. In-depth interviews were conducted 1 to 2 times with each participant and explored the women's experiences related to making decisions about, undergoing, and recovering from breast reconstruction.

RESULTS: Seven women who received either autologous breast reconstruction or saline implants were recruited in southern Taiwan. Five themes were identified, including "dream of a wonderful future," "unexpected reality," "struggling to accept," "balancing vanity with life priorities," and "coming to terms: no regret."

CONCLUSION: Taiwanese women felt ambivalent about their new breasts, which failed to meet their expectations. This ambivalence, combined with a culture that values selflessness and the placement of family first, resulted in many women feeling guilty, vain, and superficial for requesting breast reconstruction.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Clinical implications include the importance of regular and authentic patient-health care provider communication throughout the process of breast reconstruction, including recovery, and better acknowledgement of Taiwanese women's body image concerns associated with breast reconstruction.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Breast cancer
  • Breast reconstruction
  • Mastectomy
  • Phenomenology

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