The absent breast: speaking of the mastectomied body

Lenore Hilda Manderson, Lesley Stirling

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47 Citations (Scopus)


Worldwide, approximately 1 in 11 women have breast cancer at some time in their lifetime. The majority are successfully treated with surgery, then radiotherapy and/or chemo-therapy. Survival brings its own problems, however, including an underlying ontological problem: What is the part of the body left after a mastectomy? Women talking about their experiences of mastectomy are faced with complex referential tasks with regard to their bodies at different stages of the past and present, within different discourses (medical, sexual, maternal), and from different perspectives (the individual and the generic, their own perspective and that of their medical professionals). Drawing on anthropological research conducted among Australian women, we illustrate how women resolve difficulties of reference to the site of the mastectomy, and examine the shifts in perspective that are marked by different lexical choices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75 - 92
Number of pages18
JournalFeminism and Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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