Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

Barbara Golden, PsyD, ABPP

Second Advisor

Robert DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP

Third Advisor

Richard Lowe, PhD


Among women in the United States, breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and is the second-leading cause of death (American Cancer Society, 2015b). A subgroup of women with genetic mutations called BRCA1/2 mutations are at a significantly higher lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, among other cancers (Friedman, Sutphen, & Steglio, 2012). While the research base is growing with regard to women with BRCA1/2 mutations, little is known about the psychological experience of having a BRCA1/2 mutation and the challenges and obstacles that having a BRCA1/2 mutation entails throughout the lifetime. This study looked at women with BRCA1/2 mutations who had undergone a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy compared to women who had chosen to undergo surveillance methods only to manage their breast cancer risk. It was hypothesized that women who had undergone a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy would display greater experiences of stigma, greater experiences of vulnerability, and fewer mastery experiences, as well as would rate higher on investment in appearance and investment in body integrity, when compared to women who had not undergone a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and only underwent surveillance methods. Participants in this study included women who had tested positive for a deleterious BRCA1/2 mutation who spoke and understood English and were older than the age of 18 years. These women completed an online survey that asked demographic questions, as well as questions about body image and self-concept. Two separate MANOVAs were conducted to analyze the results. No significant differences were found between groups. The implications of these findings are discussed, as well as limitations of the study and the need for more research on this area of study.

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