Reducing Body Image-Related Distress in Women with Breast Cancer

Reducing Body Image-Related Distress in Women with Breast Cancer

What was the aim of the research?

The aim of this randomised controlled trial was to determine if a 1 session online psychological intervention could alleviate body image related distress and improve body appreciation in breast cancer survivors.

How did we do it?

155 breast cancer survivors who had negative experiences related to changes in their body after breast cancer were asked to participate in a web-based psychological intervention (My Changed Body).

The women were required to complete a single 30 minutes structured writing exercise. Initially, the women were asked to write about a negative experience related to the changes in their body after cancer. They were then asked to continue writing about the experience, guided by a number of  self-compassionate prompts, to encourage them to reframe the event by employing a self-kindness attitude.

What did we find?

Writing with a focus on self-compassion can increase positive body image in breast cancer patients.

Follow-up with patients to see how they felt about their body image was conducted 1 week, 1 month and 3 months later. Those women who completed the intervention had improvements in their body image at each follow-up.  In addition, women who were experiencing lymphedema (a side effect from breast cancer) also had a reduction in anxiety and depression.

What does this mean in practice?

Given its success with a breast cancer survivor cohort – this type of self-compassion therapy may be applicable to other cancer cohorts who experience body image issues, and possibly other medical conditions such as dermatological issues.

Citation: Sherman, K.A., Przezdziecki, A., Alcorso, J., Kilby, C. J., Elder, E., Boyages, J., Koelmeyer, L., and Mackie, H., (2018) Reducing Body Image-Related Distress in Women With Breast Cancer Using a Structured Online Writing Exercise: Results From the My Changed Body Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology. DOI:

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