Assessing the body image: Relevance, application and instruments for oncological settings

Maria Antonietta Annunziata, Lorena Giovannini, Barbara Muzzatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose Body image is the sum of physical, cognitive, emotional, and relational elements that, when integrated, allow the development of a whole, healthy self-identity. Even though body image is normally studied in relation to eating disorders, it can also be influenced by other pathologies, including cancer. In oncology, an effective body image assessment is fundamental. The physical effects of cancer and cancer treatments are important and frequently irreversible also on a functional and emotional level; however, only few surveys have investigated body image in this peculiar context. Methods An extensive literature review was carried out in PubMed and PsycINFO. We considered articles published from 1990 to 2010. Results Two hundred sixty-three papers matched the search criteria. Assessment methodologies included clinical interviews, self-report measures, questionnaires, symptom check lists, and graphic tests and projective techniques. After excluding the instruments that referred to eating disorders, validated only for adolescents, and/or projective and graphic tests, we found 81 articles with six questionnaires specifically dedicated to body image assessment in oncology. Conclusions From our systematic review, we could identify six instruments specifically designed for assessing body image in the oncological area. In this paper, we discuss their general characteristics, psychometrics properties and the clinical implications, and body image relevance on the quality of life in cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901-907
Number of pages7
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2012



  • Body image
  • Cancer
  • Psychometrics
  • Self-assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

Cite this