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[Pn. 5] Movement Inspires Reductions in Body Image Problems for Women Undergoing Breast Cancer Treatments

19 October 2013


This session will share the outcomes of a mixed-methods research study created to assess body-image changes in women with breast cancer following exposure to dance/movement therapy (DMT) treatments. DMT is a creative arts modality with a thorough grasp of the mind/body system where psychological and somatic constructs are truly identical. In DMT, embodied experiences usher in sensations that form the core content of the lived body. Body-image is a significant component of sexuality and self-esteem, and in psycho-oncology is a multidimensional construct influenced by investment in idealizations, which are discrepant from the appearance and functioning of ones body.

A radiation treatment center in an oncology medical facility was the site of this dissertation research. Body-image data was gathered using three oncology-specific body image measures and open-ended questions. Data from women in an experimental group, who participated in individualized movement sessions, was compared to women who didn’t participate in movement. The women in the experimental group engaged in movements of their choice as each participated in five individual dance/movement therapy sessions.

Dance/movement experiences intersected with body image processes, bringing about some surprising results. Women in the experimental group demonstrated the malleability of body image. Their qualitative narratives and the quantitative data registered their reductions in body image problems, the meaning of these changes, and their plans to sustain their gains. For women in the control group, body image problems were not reduced as much. Experiences of movement effectively bypassed women’s negative emotions, dysfunctional assumptions, and beliefs about themselves and their identities.


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