Undergoing a mastectomy can improve body image, self-esteem, and quality of life for transmen, according to new research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Many people who undergo a female-to-male transition desire a masculine chest. Subcutaneous mastectomy, which involves removing the breasts and repositioning the nipples, is a common procedure and can offer psychological as well as physical benefits. Patients often feel more confident in their role when they can physically “pass” as their chosen gender.
While past research has explored the effects of surgery on transitioning patients, this current study focused exclusively on mastectomy at two stages: before surgery and at least six months afterward.
The study began with 33 participants between the ages of 18 and 59. Their average age was 26 years. All of them had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and had been living as their desired gender for some time. All chose to undergo mastectomy.
The patients completed a variety of questionnaires preoperatively and again after a postoperative period that ranged from six to sixteen months. These assessments evaluated body awareness and attitudes, body image and satisfaction, quality of life, and self-esteem. The participants also answered questions on their feelings about their bodies in certain situations (such as looking in the mirror or exercising). After surgery, they were asked how the mastectomy affected their quality of life.
Results showed that compared to controls, the transmen tended to have lower self-esteem, and poorer body image before surgery. The situation changed afterward, with the transmen showing improved scores on the assessments, especially for body satisfaction. The scores did not surpass those of the control men and women, however.
The authors noted that six to sixteen months may not be enough postoperative time for patients to adjust to life after mastectomy. Following a similar group of transmen for a longer term would be an avenue for future research, they said.
In addition, while the changes in quality of life and self-esteem were generally positive for this group, there were still some “residual body images issues” at the follow-up point.
“Psychological counseling of people with persisting body image problems could focus on underlying assumptions of appearance, supporting a healthy lifestyle, and working on body acceptance and satisfactory sexuality,” the authors wrote.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
van de Grift, Tim C., MD, MSc, et al.
“Body Image in Transmen: Multidimensional Measurement and the Effects of Mastectomy”
(Full-text. Published online: September 22, 2016)