A prospective study from the Netherlands evaluated long-term psychological outcomes of offering women with breast cancer genetic counseling and, if indicated, genetic testing at the onset of breast radiation for treatment of their primary breast cancer. Of those who were approached for counseling, some underwent genetic testing and chose to receive their result (n = 58), some were approached but did not fulfill referral criteria (n = 118), and some declined the option of counseling/testing (n = 44). Another subset of women undergoing radiation therapy was not approached for counseling (n = 182) but was followed using the same measures. Psychological distress was measured at baseline and at 4, 11, 27, and 43 weeks after initial consultation for radiation therapy. No differences were detected in general anxiety, depression or breast cancer-specific distress across all four groups.
A retrospective questionnaire study of 583 women with a personal and family history of breast cancer and who underwent contralateral prophylactic mastectomy between 1960 and 1993 measured overall satisfaction after mastectomy and factors influencing satisfaction and dissatisfaction with this procedure. The mean time of follow-up was 10.3 years after prophylactic surgery. Overall, 83% of all participants stated they were satisfied or very satisfied, 8% were neutral, and 9% were dissatisfied with contralateral prophylactic mastectomy. Most women also reported favorable effects or no change in their self-esteem, level of stress, and emotional stability after surgery (88%, 83%, and 88%, respectively). Despite the high levels of overall satisfaction, 33% reported negative body image, 26% reported a reduced sense of femininity, and 23% reported a negative effect on sexual relationships. The type of surgical procedure also affected levels of satisfaction. The authors attributed this difference to the high rate of unanticipated reoperations in the group of women having subcutaneous mastectomy (43%) versus the group having simple mastectomy (15%) (P < .0001). Limitations to this study are mostly related to the time period during which participants had their surgery (i.e., availability of surgical reconstructive option).[224,225] None of these women had genetic testing for mutations in the BRCA1/BRCA2 genes. Nevertheless, this study shows that while most women in this group were satisfied with contralateral prophylactic mastectomy, all women reported at least one adverse outcome.
Another study compared long-term quality-of-life outcomes in 195 women following bilateral RRM performed between 1979 and 1999 versus 117 women at high risk for breast cancer opting for screening. No statistically significant differences were detected between the groups for psychosocial outcomes. Eighty-four percent of those opting for surgery reported satisfaction with their decision. Sixty-one percent of women from both the surgery and screening groups reported being very much or quite a bit contented with their quality of life.
In a study of psychosocial outcomes associated with RRM and immediate reconstruction, 61 high-risk women (27 mutation carriers, others with high-risk family history), 31 of whom had a prior history of breast cancer, were evaluated on average 3 to 4 years after surgery. The study utilized questions designed to elicit yes versus no responses and found that the surgery was well-tolerated with 83% of participants reporting that the results of their reconstructive surgery were as they expected, 90% reporting that they had received adequate preoperative information, none reporting that they regretted the surgery, and all reporting that they would choose the same route if they had to do it again. Satisfaction with the results ranged from 74% satisfied with the shape of their breasts to 89% satisfied with the appearance of the scarring. Comparison of this group to normative samples on quality-of-life indicators (SF-36; HAD scores) indicated no reductions in quality of life in these women.