The Surprise of a Breast Reconstruction: A Longitudinal Phenomenological Study to Women's Expectations About Reconstructive Surgery

M. de Boer*, R. van der Hulst, J. Slatman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Web of Science)


While having a breast reconstruction, women have certain expectations about their future breasted bodies. The aim of this paper is to describe and analyze these expectations in the process of reconstruction. By applying a qualitative, phenomenological study within a longitudinal research design, this paper acknowledges the temporarily complex, contextualized, embodied, and subjective nature of the phenomenon of expectations. The analysis identified expectations regarding three different aspects of women's embodiment: (1) their gazed body, (2) their capable/practical body, and (3) their felt body. After reconstruction, these women try to reconfigure-adjust, level or retrospectively rewrite-their expectations. Further, some women face what apparently arrives totally unexpected, namely a strange feeling breast or a failed reconstruction. The development of these women's expectations can be understood as an active, continuously evolving, difficult and sometimes impossible dynamic of expecting the surprise that is a breast reconstruction. Within this dynamic, women formulate and reconfigure-by definition-unrealistic expectations and validate and try to achieve unexpected futures. We suggest that medical professionals can facilitate this dynamic in various ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-430
JournalHuman Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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