The current ANS featured article, available at no cost while it is featured, is titled “Satisfaction Outcomes in Women Who “Choose to Go Flat” After Mastectomy: An Integrative Review,” authored by Tracy E. Tyner, MSN, APRN, ACNP-BC; Mikyoung A. Lee, PhD, RN. We invite you to download the article while it is featured, and share your comments related to their integrative review. Here is a message provided by lead author Tracy Tyner about this work.
Imagine, if you can, being diagnosed with breast cancer or you are at high-risk based on genetic or familial factors. After thoughtful and careful consideration and conversations with your healthcare team, you have decided to undergo a mastectomy and forego breast reconstruction, an option recently defined by the National Cancer Institute (2020) as Aesthetic Flat Closure, or in lay terms, “going flat.” Aesthetic flat closure is defined as a surgical procedure to remove excess fat and skin, followed by tightening of the skin to create a smooth, flat, nicely contoured chest wall, and can occur at the time of mastectomy or after reconstructive breast implant or autologous breast flap removal. After the mastectomy, you awaken to discover that you did not receive a flat closure but instead found excess amounts of skin along your chest wall with unexpected tissue deformities. Imagine looking at your chest wall with these deformities every day for the rest of your life. The potential short and long-term physical and psychological sequela these women experience is infinite.
Healthcare journalists are reporting similar events from women all across the country. In speaking with women who have undergone aesthetic flat closure, I have heard both amazing and disturbing stories surrounding their flat closure experiences. As a nurse practitioner with a family history of breast cancer, I felt a duty to answer the call from these women by enrolling in a Doctoral Nursing Program with a research focus on patient-reported outcomes in women choosing mastectomy with aesthetic flat closure.
To better understand this population, the authors, Tracy E. Tyner and Dr. Mikyoung A. Lee, set out to identify satisfaction outcomes in women choosing to go flat after mastectomy through an integrative review. Satisfaction outcomes addressed in this literature review included: chest wall appearance/aesthetic satisfaction, decision satisfaction, healthcare clinician interaction/care satisfaction, and factors affecting satisfaction. Most studies compared outcomes among different surgical options: breast-conserving surgery, mastectomy without reconstruction, and mastectomy with implant or autologous flap reconstruction. Only two qualitative studies specifically addressed women who “chose” to go flat. Overall, decision satisfaction was good, but there were mixed results on aesthetic satisfaction. Studies looking at satisfaction with healthcare clinician interactions were quite illuminating, revealing issues of paternalism, implicit and explicit biases regarding societal femininity and breasts, and a lack of educational resources available for these women. The strongest factors impacting satisfaction were body image, body mass index, radiation therapy, and access to information and resources.
This literature review found a significant paucity in the literature on satisfaction outcomes in women choosing mastectomy with aesthetic flat closure. We have only scratched the surface on understanding patient-reported satisfaction outcomes in this population. Future research needs are limitless. As nurses, we can play a pivotal role in improving patient satisfaction and health outcomes for women “choosing to go flat.”
National Cancer Institute (2020). Aesthetic flat closure. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/aesthetic-flat-closure