Body image is how you see your body. It is also how you feel about the way you look. While going through cancer treatment, many Survivors experience changes in their appearance. Cancer and cancer treatment can cause several changes in your body.
This is true for many patients, but not all patients.
Some common changes are:
• scars (if you have had surgery)
• hair loss (if you had chemotherapy or radiation)
• loss or change in shape, size, or swelling to a
• skin changes such as redness, itching, more sensitivity, pain in
the area that you had treatment or numbness
• weight changes (weight gain or weight loss)
• problems with balance, movement, or physical activity
• muscle weakness or fatigue that does not go away
• changes in your sexual functioning, such as loss of sexual interest,
erectile difficulties, vaginal dryness, muscle weakness, infertility
How long will these changes last?
These physical changes may be temporary or permanent. We are all different and react to treatments differently. So, speak with your doctor about your personal issues.
How can these changes affect my body image?
You may still be coping with the effects of your treatment. Changes that
are visible (such as changes to your skin, hair, or weight) can make you feel
uncomfortable with your body. How you look is important.
It can take time to get over these effects. You may feel different about your body,
even if there are no lasting physical changes to your body. Cancer survivors
describe both positive and negative changes in their body image.
Here are some negative changes you may have:
• lose confidence in your body and its abilities
• feel that your body has “let you down.”
• see your body as weak or vulnerable
Here are some positive changes you may have:
• feeling more aware of your body, or feeling like you “know”
• feeling stronger because you got through your treatment
• feeling energized to treat your body well (eating healthier foods and exercising.)
How can this affect me in other ways?
Your feelings about the way you look may also affect your “self-image.”
This is how you see yourself as a person (your likes and dislikes, personality,
beliefs, and values). How you feel about your “self-image” may also change
how you relate to others.
You may also be coping with changes that others cannot see. These can include
feeling tired, having a hidden scar, infertility, or early menopause. These changes
can make you feel different about yourself. You may worry if you will be able to
carry out the same roles you had before.
It is important to talk about any changes and how they affect your self-esteem
or sense of yourself with your doctor.
You may also join a Support group. You will be talking to other Survivors, and you will learn tricks on how to cope and deal with your changes. The support group I joined was invaluable to me.
Don’t keep your feelings locked inside of you; talk to a friend, a family member, or a doctor. Some people feel awkward about Support groups. Believe me, that’s how I felt, but I knew I belonged there the minute I entered the room.
Sole Sistas have trained mentors; we can help you with many situations, including body image.
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