Emotions Around Mastectomy

Choosing to have a mastectomy can be an emotionally-draining and frightening experience for any woman. Fighting breast cancer is challenging enough without having to deal with the loss of a breast too. If you are considering mastectomy, or have already had a mastectomy, it is important to get in touch with your emotions about the surgery. Whether you are scared, angry, or frightened, your emotions are an important part of the decision-making and recovery process.

How Women Feel About Mastectomy
Every woman feels differently about choosing mastectomy. Some women are very comfortable with the idea of the surgery, while others are more concerned about it. However you feel, remember that it is okay. Your feelings are genuine and they can often help to guide you in the decision making process. You may feel a range of emotions, including:

  • Fear - about going through surgery or losing a breast
  • Anger - about getting cancer in the first place
  • Sadness - about losing a part of your body

Work to acknowledge these feelings, both to yourself and to those around you, including your health care providers.

Choosing Mastectomy
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you are probably spending some time considering your treatment options. Many women who have breast cancer choose to undergo mastectomy because it is one of the most efficient ways to remove breast cancer cells from the body. However, choosing mastectomy is not always an easy option. To help you decide between mastectomy and other treatments ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel about losing my breast?
  • Are there alternative breast cancer treatments that may be just as effective?
  • Do I have a support team (friends, family) to help me through my mastectomy?
  • What are the costs of mastectomy compared to other treatments?

After Mastectomy
After your mastectomy, the worries and feelings that you had before treatment will not disappear right away. Both physical and emotional recovery takes time. After mastectomy, you may find yourself concerned with different things, ranging from your physical appearance to your sexual identity. It is important to acknowledge and discuss these concerns with those close to you, especially your partner or spouse.

Sex after Mastectomy
Many women find that sex after mastectomy is uncomfortable or difficult. This may be due to post-surgery pain or it could be due to psychological issues. Losing a breast can make it very hard to be intimate with someone. Being naked or having someone touch you may feel awkward or even scary. You may miss having your breasts caressed during sex. Or you may feel as if you are no longer a "woman" now that you have lost a breast. These feelings are entirely normal to have.

It is a good idea to discuss these feelings with your partner. By expressing your fears and concerns, your partner can help you to overcome them. Sometimes, simple changes to the "bedroom" routine can make intimacy more enjoyable. Try experimenting with different positions, or keep the lights dimmed low for the time being. Start off slow, even if it's just by hugging or kissing. You may even want to meet with a sex therapist for tips on how to re-establish intimacy.

Body Image after Mastectomy
Mastectomy is intrinsically linked to body image for many women. A large percentage of breast cancer sufferers do not want to have mastectomies because of body image concerns. After your mastectomy, these concerns may continue or even become worse for a short period of time.

Reconstructive Surgery
It may be a good idea to consider reconstructive surgery to help improve your self-image. Reconstructive surgery helps to restore the appearance of your breast, which might help you over the initial hump of recovery.

Reconstructive surgery can be done during your mastectomy operation or anytime afterwards. It involves inserting a silicone implant or placing excess tissue from your abdomen into your breast area. This tissue is then shaped into a breast form. Reconstructive surgery is very popular and can provide you with a very natural shape. Most reconstructive surgery is covered by medical insurance. However, if your insurance does not cover this procedure, it is possible to find affordable plastic surgery options.

Mastectomy Products
You might consider purchasing a mastectomy prosthesis product, like a breast form, if you are worried about the way your chest looks. A breast form is made of silicone rubber and sits inside your clothes or adheres to your skin. It looks just like a real breast, and is even weighted to help you maintain proper posture. Breast forms come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and are usually covered in part by insurance.

Purchasing mastectomy clothing is also a good way to help you build your self-image. Mastectomy clothes are specially designed for women who have lost a breast. These clothes have special pockets in which you can insert breast forms or pads. They are also comfortable and stylish. Mastectomy bras and mastectomy swimsuits are among some of the most popular items.

Tips For Dealing With Mastectomy
Dealing with mastectomy can be very difficult. Here are some important tips to remember:

  • Use self-talk to boost your body image. Be sure to acknowledge your loss and mourn it. Remind yourself that you are still a beautiful, sexual woman.
  • Focus on the positives. Life is filled with negative things, but it can also be wonderful. Remind yourself about the things you love to do and about all the good things in your life.
  • Talk with others. Join a support group, talk to family or friends, or meet with other women who have experienced mastectomy.
  • Don't rush yourself. Recovery takes time. Take things one day at a time.
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