Cancer And Your Self-Image

Your guide to managing changes during your cancer journey

What is self-image?

Self-image is how individuals perceive themselves. It is also how we imagine the world views us. There may be several physical and emotional changes during your cancer journey which may impact how you look, and this in turn may impact how you feel about yourself. Changes in your body may affect self-esteem and confidence. Physical symptoms of cancer may also trigger a sense of severe emotional distress. These feelings are normal and shared by several cancer patients. Do not shy away from acknowledging them and learning how to cope.

Changes to Your Body and Appearance During Cancer Treatment

Cancer treatments may have an impact on your body and affect the way you look.
Some of the common visible changes you may experience are

Hair loss – you may lose some or all of the hair from your head, and sometimes even your eyebrows, eyelashes and body

Changes in the appearance
of your skin

Changes in the appearance
of your nails

Scarring or losing a part of
your body from surgery

Losing weight or gaining weight

Rashes from drug therapies

Some body changes may not be visible, but may impact you just as deeply

Infertility or experiencing early menopause

Nausea or queasiness

Reduced sex drive or difficulties having sex

Extreme fatigue and inability to
do certain activities

Increased sensitivity to strong smells

Changes in your ability to tolerate
or digest certain types of food

Changes to your bladder or bowel
movements

Changes in sensation for example, numbness in a part of your body after surgery,
or in your hands and feet after chemotherapy

These physical changes may make you feel self-conscious and influence how you feel about your body image. You may also be dealing with a fear of social acceptance, feelings of anxiety and grief due to these changes in your body.

Preparing for changes to your appearance

Before you start treatment that can change the way you look, make sure you are well-prepared and have all the information about what to expect. Cancer treatments can cause overwhelming physical and mental trauma. In this section we help you understand different cancer treatments and how to effectively manage side effects. Read more

Above all, have open and honest discussions with your doctor and care team about your self-image concerns during or after treatment.

Coping with Changes and Improving Self-Image

The most important thing to remember is that several of these symptoms will ease over time and some will completely fade. Focus on how you have bravely dealt with your cancer journey so far and are going strong. Talk to your physician and cancer care team for advice on dealing with any physical changes that are bothering you and ways you can care for them, for example

Maybe you could consider a wig for your hair loss?

Maybe a new look will lift your spirits and keep you going?

Maybe learning a new hobby will give you a new sense of purpose?

If you have had a mastectomy, perhaps you can consider reconstructive surgery?

If you have lost a limb during surgery, maybe you can consider wearing a prosthesis?

Maybe you could consider a wig for your hair loss?

Maybe a new look will lift your spirits and keep you going?

Maybe learning a new hobby will give you a new sense of purpose?

If you have had a mastectomy, perhaps you can consider reconstructive surgery?

If you have lost a limb during surgery, maybe you can consider wearing a prosthesis?

Over time, you will learn to adjust to these changes and keep moving forward with positivity and hope. Many patients also find that trying to stay active can help deal with anxiety, stress, and self-image issues. Exercise may help you feel stronger, more relaxed, and give you a new sense of purpose. Other coping mechanisms could include – reading, art therapy, music, volunteering for a cause, or doing anything which makes you feel better about yourself and positively impacts your self-image. Maintaining your physical well-being is another critical aspect of your cancer care journey. 

Prioritize your physical wellness
during your treatment

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