Adjustment to bodily changes after breast cancer treatment can lead to long term distress. Self-compassion, the ability to be kind to one self, is an internal resource that may enhance a woman’s ability to adjust to cancer-related bodily changes. The aim of the present study was to investigate the association of body image disturbance, self-compassion and psychological distress among breast cancer survivors.
Members of a nationwide breast cancer consumer network were invited to participate. A total of 279 women who had completed active cancer treatment completed the online survey. Assessments included the Body Image Scale (BIS), Self Compassion Scale (SCS) and the Depression, Anxiety and Stress scales (DASS). Possible mediating effects of self-compassion on the body image-distress relationship were assessed.
Clinical levels of depression (28%), anxiety (20%) and stress (17%) were evident in a subset of women sampled. Pearson’s correlations indicated a positive association between body image disturbance and distress, and negative associations between self-compassion and body image disturbance and self compassion and distress. Self-compassion was found to partially mediate the association between body image and depression and body image and anxiety, and to fully mediate the body image-stress association.
Body image disturbance and lower self-compassion were associated with increased psychological distress among these breast cancer survivors. This study found preliminary evidence for a mediating role of self-compassion, between body image disturbance and psychological distress, suggesting a potential buffering effect of higher levels of self compassion for women at risk of experiencing body image disturbance.