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Cancer briefings

Conquest - Spring 2014

Screening tool targets body-image concerns

by Katrina Burton

While clinicians and surgeons work to provide the best medical outcomes for cancer patients undergoing reconstructive surgery, researchers and psychologists work to help prevent acute psychosocial impairment.

In a cross-sectional study recently published in Psycho-Oncology, researchers tested a survey that acts as an early screening and intervention tool to help clinicians identify patients who were at high risk for body image concerns.

Michelle Fingeret, Ph.D.

“Patients can become very distressed by appearance changes after reconstructive surgery,” said Michelle Fingeret, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist and lead investigator on the study. “We need to be able to identify these patients and address their concerns as early as possible to ensure we provide the best intervention.” 

The survey, known as Body Image Screener for Cancer Reconstruction (BICR), was designed specifically for cancer patients undergoing reconstructive surgery at MD Anderson, and is administered by plastic surgeons. Fingeret, a psychologist and director of MD Anderson’s Body Image Therapy Program, said this type of screening is needed to better assess patients’ frame of mind before surgery. 

The survey, which was administered to 248 patients undergoing different types of reconstructive surgery, covers three key components that indicate body-image concerns: distress, behavioral avoidance and preoccupation.

More than 95% of the patients expressed concerns about body-image and one-third were interested in enrolling in counseling or receiving additional information about body-image distress. “This is just the first step in research that needs to be done on this population group,” Fingeret said. 

“We’re raising an important issue to patients and clinicians because body-image concerns affect the quality of life for both patients and survivors.”

© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center