Breast reconstruction following cancer: Its impact on patients' and partners' sexual functioning
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Previous literature lacks a theoretical conceptualisation of breast reconstruction and its impact on patients' and partners' sexual functioning. The aims of the present study were to identify factors that impact on the sexual relationship, to explore coping strategies used by patients and partners, and to highlight service needs. In total, 12 women who had undergone breast reconstructive surgery within the last three years and their partners (10 men) took part in the study. Grounded theory methodology was used to analyse the data and identify key categories for both patients and partners. Patients' key categories included anxiety and worry, influencing factors, self-image and sexual changes. All women experienced some degree of sexual change and sexual anxiety, and a minority reported a loss of sexual self. Partners' key categories included anxiety and stress, influencing factors and negotiating sexual changes. The majority of partners reported that initially, their priority was their partner's survival rather than sexual concerns; however the majority of men acknowledged some degree of sexual anxiety. The study highlighted the lack of information and discussion about sexual issues for both patients and partners, and the timing of such information if it were to be provided. It also stresses the need for services to include partners throughout the process.