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“Complex, personal and irreversible”: Risk-reducing breast surgery and the role of the psychologist

22 June 2018

Guidelines published today by the British Psychological Society provide recommendations on the role of psychologists who work in breast care and plastic and reconstructive surgery teams where patients may be considered for risk-reducing breast surgery.

Risk-reducing breast surgery is one of a range of treatment options available to women who are concerned about their risk of developing a primary breast cancer. Surgical options under consideration include contralateral or bilateral mastectomy alone or mastectomy and either immediate or delayed reconstruction.

Surgery has been shown to significantly reduce incidence of breast cancer and increase life expectancy rates for those with a high risk of breast cancer. Yet, as the guidelines say, “The decision to pursue risk-reducing surgery is complex, personal and irreversible.”

The guidelines have been developed by the Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology, Faculty for Oncology and Palliative Care.

They consider those patients who are at a heightened risk of developing a primary breast cancer in relation to a number of factors including genetic predisposition and family and personal history.

These guidelines designed to inform surgical pathways and local commissioning arrangements for psychological consultation and support in this specialist area.

They do not take a position on whether a woman is or is not medically suitable for surgery and does not see this as the remit or role of psychologists.

Click here to read Guideline for the role of practitioner psychologists in the assessment and support of women considering risk-reducing breast surgery.

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