Body image in younger breast cancer survivors: A systematic review

Carly L. Paterson, Cecile A. Lengacher, Kristine A. Donovan, Kevin E. Kip, Cindy S. Tofthagen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Background: Body image is a complex issue with the potential to impact many aspects of cancer survivorship, particularly for the younger breast cancer survivor. Objective: The purpose of this review is to synthesize the current state of the science for body image in younger women with breast cancer. Methods: Combinations of the terms "body image," "sexuality intervention," "women," "younger women," and "breast cancer" were searched in the PubMed, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Web of Knowledge, and Science Direct databases through January 2014. Inclusion criteria for this review were (1) original research, (2) published in English from the year 2000 forward, (3) measuring body image as an outcome variable, and (4) results included reporting of age-related outcomes. Results: Thirty-six articles met the inclusion criteria. The majority of studies were cross-sectional, with extensive variation in body image assessment tools. Age and treatment type had a significant impact on body image, and poorer body image was related to physical and psychological distress, sex and intimacy, and the partnered relationship among younger women. Only 1 intervention study found a significant improvement in body image after intervention. Conclusions: Findings suggest body image is a complex posttreatment concern for breast cancer survivors, particularly younger women. The findings of this review are limited by the high level of variation in the methods for assessing body image. Implications for Practice: Further research of interventions to address body image concerns following treatment for breast cancer is warranted. Improvement of body image may improve the quality of life of younger breast cancer survivors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E39-E58
JournalCancer Nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Body image
  • Breast cancer
  • Nursing
  • Younger women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)


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