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Encounters with Breast Cancer patients
Mata Fafouti


This presentation is trying to explore in a psychosomatic approach the conscious anxieties and the unconscious fantasies of breast cancer patients, by presenting cases where these patients reveal over the course of the sessions, their fears, their ways of experiencing cancer, body image, death and life.
The mutilating treatments imposed by breast cancer (mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, breast reconstruction) arouse considerable psychological distress in the affected woman. This includes the loss of her feeling of bodily integrity, disturbance in herself image and her sense of subjective identity, as well as perturbation in her sense of sexual identity. With the loss of the breast, the essential symbol of femininity is felt to be destroyed, adding to the treat of death, feelings of confusion in relation to others as well as anxiety concerning sexual and love relationships.
Bygone fears, inhibitions, narcissistic and identification conflicts tend to resurface following a mastectomy, reactivating the unconscious long repressed trauma of castration anxieties manifested as separation anxieties, loss of femininity and love, sterility, intrusion and penetration of the interior of the body.
Furthermore the loss of the breast with the concurrent loss of other traits of femininity such as hair and menstruation tend to reactivate other losses in the patient’s past separations, abandonments, deaths and the pain of mourning.

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