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Open Access Article

The Experience of Viewing Oneself in the Mirror After a Mastectomy

Wyona M. Freysteinson
Amy S. Deutsch
Carol Lewis
Angela Sisk
Linda Wuest
Sandra K. Cesario
ONF 2012, 39(4), 361-369 DOI: 10.1188/12.ONF.361-369

Purpose/Objectives: To describe the experience of viewing oneself in a mirror following a mastectomy.

Research Approach: Ricoeur's hermeneutic phenomenology.

Setting: Three hospitals in a nonprofit healthcare system in the southwestern United States.

Participants: Purposive sample of 12 women 3-12 months postmastectomy.

Methodologic Approach: Structural analysis and phenomenologic interpretation of tape-recorded interviews.

Main Research Variables: Viewing oneself in the mirror after a mastectomy.

Findings: Viewing or not viewing one's own body, energizing and dispiriting thoughts, and supportive and unsupportive others helped to explain the experience of women who have had a mastectomy. The phenomenologic interpretation yielded four themes: I am, I decide, I see, and I consent.

Conclusions: The current study offers an understanding of the multifaceted experience of women postmastectomy. Mirrors appear to be essential in viewing and caring for the mastectomy site.

Interpretation: Nurses should consider discussing the mirror experience with women who are having a mastectomy pre- and postoperatively. Nurses also may choose to offer a mirror to their patients when doing the initial dressing change and teaching wound care. Educational materials are needed for patients and nurses. In addition, future research is warranted on the use of mirrors when caring for patients who have had a mastectomy.

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