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Body image and the psychological and behavioural indices of distress in female breast cancer patients

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Psychological distress associated with body image disorders in patients with breast cancer is well described in the literature. Given the known insults to body image caused by both disease and oncological treatment, body image distress is commonplace within this patient population. Stress is also a frequent sequela of a diagnosis of and treatment for cancer and may manifest various forms. This study undertook to investigate the nature of stress and body image distress within a cohort of 80 female breast cancer patients drawn from three outpatient cancer treatment facilities in the Durban, South Africa region and to examine its correlation with psychological and behavioural indices reported by these patients as compared to a group of 80 female patients undergoing treatment for other types of cancer. The results indicated that although there were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of depressive symptomatology and measures of self-esteem, where scores largely fell within normal ranges, the breast cancer patients experienced higher levels of body image dissatisfaction as compared to the other group and that stress tended to be expressed in psychological and behavioural indices as opposed to physiological expression.
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  • Counselling Psychologist, Durban Oncology Centre, Durban, South Africa
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