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Exploring the relationship between gender, body image and pain


Historically, research to date has focused primarily on how biological sex relates to pain. This means that we lack information on how people's gender identity affects their experience of pain. In this current exploratory study, we address this knowledge gap by focusing on the pain experiences of ciswomen and transgender men undergoing mastectomies. Through our research, we aim to understand how gender identity and body image satisfaction contributes to post-surgical pain.


Funded by the New Frontiers Research Fund, our study is novel in its approach: we are exploring pain in understudied populations through a gender identity-conscious lens. We will research the complex experience of mastectomy-related pain using psychological, behavioural and neuroscientific assessments before and after surgery. We hope to improve surgical outcome and provide better pain management care for both groups.


We have two aims in this study. 

Aim 1 involves two semi-structured interviews by a licensed social worker before and after surgery. We will ask you to reflect on your experiences relating to body image and pain.

Aim 2 involves two in person visits before and after surgery, and one remote visit one week after surgery. During the in person visits, we will measure your pain sensitivity using a standardized battery of tests, and take pictures of your brain using a scanner. At all visits, you will also be asked to complete questionnaires that relate to gender identity, body image satisfaction and pain. 


Neuroimaging refers to the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the central nervous system and its involvement in pain. Your MRI visits will take place at the University of Toronto's neuroimaging facility ToNI at your convenience.

Questionnaires will be made available to you on REDCAP--a secure online database. This way, you can complete the questionnaires from the comfort of your home. You will be asked to reflect on your gender identity, body image satisfaction, pain sensations and more. 

Sensory testing will be carried out using a battery of standardized tests called QST. We are interested in quantitative measures of your sensation and pain thresholds to cold, warm and mechanical stimulation. 

MRI Scan Image
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The Team

Principal Investigators​

Massieh Moayedi, PhD, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto 

R. Cassandra Lord, PhD, Historical Studies, University of Toronto, Mississauga 


Emery Potter, NP-PHC, MN, Transition Related Surgery, Women’s College Hospital 

Craig Dale, Bloomberg School of Nursing, University of Toronto 

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