A group approach to address the influence of gender-socialization and body consciousness on body image in breast cancer survivors: Experiences from a Randomized Controlled Trial (#264)
Aims: Persistent challenges exist for a significant number of women adjusting to an altered body image and sense of self after treatment for breast cancer (BC). Cultural “standards” of how one should behave, think, and appear powerfully influence the development of one’s body image and sense of self. Examples include societal-based norms defining idealized beauty and expected gender-roles which can be internalized. The current study examined social and cultural influences contributing to ongoing challenges in survivorship, using data from an ongoing randomized trial of a group intervention on body image related concerns. Methods: 175 BC survivors completed a battery of measures at baseline, including the Body Image Scale (BIS; Hopwood 2001), Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (OBCS; McKinley 1996) measuring body shame and intense surveillance; and the Gender Role Socialization Scale (GRSS: Tang 2001) measuring internalization of traditional gender based roles. Results: Significant positive correlations were found between body image (BIS) and gender role socialization (r=0.52, p<0.000), BIS and body shame (r=0.56, p<0.000) and BIS and body surveillance (r=0.54, p<0.000). Path analyses further highlighted the role of social and cultural factors in influencing BC adjustment. Together, GRSS and OBCS explained 46% of the variance in body image. Case examples of the current group therapy intervention will be used to further illustrate how social and cultural factors might contribute to adjustment following BC treatment and how a woman-centred approach could help to build insight and facilitate change among BC survivors. Conclusion: Results indicate that BC survivors with disturbed body images and preoccupation with physical appearances endorse more rigid and entrenched gender-roles and expectations of “who” they “should be” and “how” they should look. Women centred-approaches to re-establish self-identify and a sense of self–worth are needed to support breast cancer survivors to effectively address adaptation challenges.