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Release Date: 04/15/2015

A research team led by Jennifer S. Gass, MD, surgeon-in-chief at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island and co-director of its Breast Health Center recently presented research indicating that breast cancer patients who undergo breast conservation therapy instead of mastectomy experience greater pleasure during intimacy in survivorship.

The research, presented at the annual meetings of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health and the Society of Surgical Oncology, is entitled “Surgical management of breast cancer and impact on sexual function.” In addition to Dr. Gass, authors from the Breast Health Center included Drs. Ashley Stuckey and Sarah Pesek, as well as Dr. Michaela Onstad, a graduate of our own OB/Gyn residency and Breast Fellowship programs.

“What we found was that women who were treated with breast conservation therapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer reported a higher rate of pleasurable caressing of the treated breast during sex and intimate moments,” Dr. Gass explains, adding that women who underwent mastectomy and reconstruction were less than half as likely to experience such pleasure.

With the incidence of contralateral prophylactic mastectomy increasing across the country, the researchers evaluated the impact of surgery on sexual function among more than 4,000 women over a 12-year period using the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI). Women having lumpectomy, also known as breast conservation therapy, versus mastectomy with or without reconstruction were significantly more satisfied with their own appearance undressed as well as being more comfortable being seen by their partner undressed.

“Women who were more satisfied with their own appearance undressed had remarkably significant higher sexual function, as measured by the FSFI,” Dr. Gass concludes. Reaffirming that women are our own most critical judges, we observed that “ A woman’s own opinion of her appearance was more powerful than how comfortable she felt being seen by her partner.”

For more information on research being conducted at The Breast Health Center, or to make an appointment, call (401) 453-7540.

About Women & Infants Hospital

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation’s leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine, Women & Infants is the 12th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year. A Designated Baby-Friendly® USA hospital, U.S.News & World Report 2014-15 Best Children’s Hospital in Neonatology and a 2014 Leapfrog Top Hospital, in 2009 Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country’s largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation’s first mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation’s only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.
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