Impact of Marital Coping on Body Image and Sexual Relationship Among Breast Cancer Survivors
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Session presented on Saturday, July 26, 2014: Purpose: Changes in body image and sexual relationships can be problematic for women after breast cancer treatments. Breast cancer is a challenge that may change women's usual roles and that can be stressful for women's relationship with their partners. The use of ineffective coping efforts to deal with marital conflicts could result in a lack of support from the partner, which could have a negative impact on a woman's body image and sexual relationships. Understanding women's particular marital coping efforts to deal with their marital conflict and their association with body image as well as sexual relationship can help healthcare providers develop effective interventions to ameliorate these problems. The purpose of the study were: 1) understand the relationship between women's marital coping efforts and body image and 2) understand the relationship between women's marital coping efforts and the sexual relationship and 3) identify variables that might be used to predict a breast cancer survivor's body image and sexual relationship. Methods: A cross-sectional, correlational design was used. Permission to carry out the study was received from the hospital ethics committee. Women who met the inclusion criteria, which included 1) having been married and 2) completion of required adjuvant therapy, were recruited from the hospital cancer registry. After agreeing to participate and signing the informed consent, women were given questionnaires that measured marital coping, body image, and relationship and sexuality scales. Results: One hundred and twenty-six women were recruited for this study. The results indicated the following: 1) body image and sexual relationship were moderately correlated (p<.001); 2) women who used avoidance or introspective self-blame marital coping to deal with marital conflict reported more body image and sexual relationship problems (p< .001); women who used avoidance marital coping to deal with marital conflict were vulnerable to sexual problems including a decrease in sexual-esteem and sexual performance; However, if women tended to use positive-approach coping to deal with marital conflict, their sexual performance and sexual intimacy would be enhanced (p< .001); 3) marital coping efforts, including avoidance, positive-approach effort and body image, were predictors of women's sexual relationships and explained 36% of the variance in this variable; and 4) self-blame and avoidance marital coping as well as fear of recurrence were predictors of women's body image problems and explained 35% of the variance in this variable. Conclusion: Marital coping efforts could significantly influence women's body image and sexual relationships. Future interventions that address the body image and sexual health of breast cancer survivors should be considered to encourage female breast cancer survivors to use positive-approach marital coping effort and prevent them from using disengaged avoidance or self-blame coping efforts to deal with their marital strain.