Life Without a Breast: Exploring the Experiences of Young Nigerian Women After Mastectomy for Breast Cancer

Olalekan Olasehinde, MD, MS; Olujide Arije, MD, MPh; Funmilola Olanike Wuraola, MD; Marguerite Samson, Olawumi Olajide, MD; Timothy Alabi, MSc


The majority of women managed for breast cancer in Nigeria are relatively young, many in their forties. Mastectomy, the most common surgical treatment, raises psychosocial concerns. Understanding these concerns may help address the fears of women who refuse treatment and aid in the care of those who have had mastectomy.


Using qualitative methods, we purposively sampled women 45 years of age and younger who underwent mastectomy for breast cancer at a Nigerian teaching hospital. One-on-one in-depth interviews were conducted using an unstructured interview guide. Data were transcribed verbatim and analyzed to identify themes and subthemes.


The study identified six major themes on the impact of mastectomy on psychosocial lives of women, namely decision for mastectomy, postmastectomy transition, body image changes, relationship with husband and sexual life, coping with life postmastectomy, and social support.


Our findings highlight the importance of addressing individual patient’s psychosocial needs and preferences when discussing breast cancer treatment with young women. The experiences of women described in this study reveal several useful themes for planning treatment protocols and postmastectomy care.