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the Reframe teamJul 14, 2022 3:33:46 PM3 min read

Cancer and body image - how to cope with changes

Cancer can affect you in many ways, both physically and emotionally. Some of the changes you experience can affect how your body looks or how you feel about your body image. Adjusting can take time, but there are some things that can help.

Changes that can happen

Body image refers to the idea someone has of what their own body looks like. Cancer and its treatments can mean changes to the way your body looks and how your body works – which can affect how you feel about yourself.

Treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy may cause temporary, or permanent, changes to your body. These can include swelling, weight changes, postural changes, hair loss or thinning, scarring, blotchy skin, rashes, or other changes to skin tone or nails.

Other changes that can affect your body image could be changes in your physical abilities, loss of bodily functions such as erectile dysfunction or incontinence, or infertility.

Wig for hair loss

Any of these changes can affect your perception of how your body looks and increase the risk of anxiety and depression. It could also affect other parts of your life, making you feel like you don’t want to socialise or travel. It is a personal experience, and how these things impact you will be different for everyone – but you are not alone. It is common for people of all ages and all cancer types to experience an impact on their confidence – but there are things you can do to boost self-esteem.

5 tips to cope with changes

1. Taking back control

Changes to your body are out of your control – but taking control of how you look after your body can help you reconnect and make yourself feel better. You could focus on self-care routines, gradually reintroducing exercise, finding new ways to socialise – or a combination of these. Taking control by taking care of yourself, will help to boost your confidence.

2. Finding products that suit you

If there is a particular change that causes you anxiety, you may find there are products that can make these easier to manage.

For example, Cancer Hair Care’s Wig Guide or Suburban Turban’s Help and Advice page, has different wigs, turbans or hats that can help with hair loss or thinning.

3. Having a self-care routine

Reconnect to your body by having a self-care routine. It could be a new skincare routine, hair and makeup routine, or making meditation or mindfulness a part of your day.

Look Good Feel Better has lots of different workshops for ideas, and Jennifer Young has specialist cancer skincare products and treatments.

4. Setting achievable fitness goals

Keeping active can boost your self-esteem and help with postural or weight changes. Having manageable goals will help you to get back into a fitness routine. This could be anything from taking a short walk and increasing it day-by-day, to joining a new fitness group like chair yoga, or Pilates.

5. Finding a support network

Sharing how you feel can help you to process your thoughts and emotions. If you’re struggling to talk, start by writing it down.

If you can, build a support network through friends, family, your healthcare team, support group or a cancer support service like Reframe.

For more help, find some helpful resources below, or you can book a call with our expert advisors to talk about a personalised support plan that works for you.