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Cancer and cancer treatment may change how your body looks, feels and performs. The following are some physical changes associated with cancer and its treatment that may impact your self-image:
- Changes in weight (i.e., loss or gain)
- Thinning or loss of hair
- Changes in skin tone/color (i.e., blotchy skin) and nails
- Physical changes from surgery (i.e., scarring, loss of limb or part of the body)
- Changes in posture (i.e., Kyphosis, or hunchback)
- Changes in physical performance/abilities
- Changes in bodily/reproductive functions (i.e., incontinence, infertility)
- Swelling in the limbs (i.e., lymphedema)
These physical changes may affect your view of yourself in different ways. You may feel self-conscious or embarrassed about your body and appearance. A good self-image may help reduce depression and anxiety and improve your emotional well-being.
Tips for Improving Your Self-Image
- While your body may look and feel different, remember you are still the same person on the inside. Look within yourself and celebrate the person you are.
- Understand that many changes in your appearance may be temporary and will go away after you complete treatment.
- Experiment with ways to enhance your appearance. Use makeup, wigs, headscarves, etc. If you lose or gain weight, have your clothes altered.
- Ask your health care team about reconstructive or cosmetic options, such as reconstructive surgery, prosthetic devices and cosmetic solutions.
- If you are unable to participate in some of your former activities or sports, try to find new activities that interest you.
- Prepare ahead for reactions from others. Think about how you will respond ahead of time so you are prepared to handle these situations.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Keep up with routine health and hygiene activities, practice good nutrition, and stay active.
- Take part in activities outside of your home. If you are physically able, get involved in activities in your community.
- Seek support from friends, family, and other cancer survivors.