Maintenance of Body Image concerns after cancer treatment. 1

Cancer and cancer treatment can change the body image which in turn can affect the self confidence of the patient. They may feel conscious about the image, feel depressed or different. These FAQ’s will help them to cope with the changed body image.

Maintenance of Body Image concerns after cancer treatment. 2
  1. What is body image?

         Body image is how you see your body. It is also how you feel about the way you look.

2. Why is it important?

The changes in the body image can affect self-esteem – or how you feel about yourself. For many people, self-esteem is very closely tied with body image, which is how you feel about your body. 

3. Why the changes in the body image during treatment of cancer?

Cancer can change the way you look, temporarily or permanently.

  • Chemotherapy can sometimes make your hair fall out.
  • You may have had surgery to remove a part of your body, and you may have scars. You may now have an ostomy.
  • Radiation therapy can cause various changes.
  • 4. What are some common changes in your body after cancer?

Cancer and cancer treatment can cause a number of 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)

• loss or change in shape, size or swelling to a body part

• skin changes or nail discolouration

• weight changes (weight gain or weight loss)

5. How long will these changes last?

These physical changes may be temporary or permanent. You should consult your oncologist about your situation.

6. How can I develop my behavioural skills to overcome the changes in the body image?

Sometimes people may stare, make comments, ask questions or avoid people with body changes. This can be upsetting and hard to deal with. Social skills focus on how to communicate well and can help you manage social gatherings and the reactions of other people.

You may wish to think about:

• Presentation – The way you present yourself overall is important, for example, dress and accessories. It conveys a message to other people about how you feel about yourself.

• Posture – Communication involves the whole body. Standing with your shoulders back and head up makes you look confident and assertive.

• Engaging with people – Making eye contact, smiling and nodding tells others that you’re approachable.

• Taking the initiative – You may wish to talk about your body changes at an appropriate point in a conversation.

  • Having self confidence and believing in one self is of utmost importance.

This can reduce your anxiety and help you maintain control.

7. How to cope with the loss of breast?

Maintenance of Body Image concerns after cancer treatment. 3

Breast loss. Surgery may take a part of a breast, or can remove the entire breast. If one or both of your breasts are removed, you may choose to have your breast(s) rebuilt through reconstructive surgery.

  • Breast reconstruction may restore the shape and size of your lost breast. It can’t restore normal feeling in the breast. Your nipples (s) also might be removed.
    • Over time, the skin on the rebuilt breast becomes more sensitive, but usually you will not feel the same kind of pleasure as before surgery. Still, breast reconstruction may help restore sexual enjoyment because it can boost feelings of wholeness and attractiveness.
    • Instead of reconstruction, you might choose to use a prosthesis a breast form inserted in a bra, or to wear nothing at all.
    • 8. How can I take care of my skin during the treatment?

Chemotherapy often causes dry, irritated skin. Rather than waiting to deal with symptoms after treatment starts, patients can take steps to minimise skin problems about one week before beginning chemo. Then, they can continue the routine during treatment.

Maintenance of Body Image concerns after cancer treatment. 4
  • Avoid long, hot showers or baths.
  • Use gentle, fragrance-free soaps and laundry detergent.
  • Use moisturisers, preferably creams or ointments rather than lotions because the thicker consistency is better at preventing skin dehydration . Apply the cream or ointment within 15 minutes of showering. Reapply moisturiser at night, and moisturise your hands every time after you wash them.

Check with your doctor but, as long as there are no open sores on your skin,swimming is fine for chemotherapy patients. However, spas or hot tubs aren’t a good idea.

9. How to cope with the hair loss?

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Why do some chemotherapy patients lose their hair, not just on the scalp, but also on their eyebrows, eyelashes, and the rest of their bodies?

 Ask your doctor about the likelihood of hair loss before you start your treatment, so you are prepared and know what you may expect.

Options to deal with hair loss during chemotherapy:

  • Decide before you begin chemotherapy whether you want to wear a wig. You may want to shop before treatment to match your hair colour.
  • Hats, turbans, and scarves can also camouflage hair loss, although some people prefer to leave their heads uncovered.
  • Cut your hair short or shave it subject to your social and religious acceptance. It eases the inconvenience of shedding lots of hair, but it also can reduce the emotional impact of watching your hair fall out.
  • Don’t perm or colour your hair during chemotherapy. Those chemical treatments are already damaging to hair and can enhance hair loss.

Bald scalp is one of the new fashion statement. Be ready to become a Fashion Icon!!

With chemotherapy, hair loss is almost always temporary. But when it grows back, it may be a different colour or texture.

10. How to care for your nails during treatment?
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During chemotherapy, nails become brittle and dry and may develop lines and ridges. Nails can also darken with certain chemotherapy medications. The effects are temporary, but can last for months.

For home care, patients with signs of infection in separated nails can soak their fingers or toes in a solution of white vinegar and water for 15 minutes every night. It kills the bacteria and dries the areas out.

  • How can I socialize with a stoma?

In colorectal cancer treatment, stoma is often a requirement temporary or permanent.

  • The basic requirement is to carry the accessories required in a bag always.
  • Some deodorant is required to cover up the smell after the change of stoma. Some companies also have odour free and scented stoma bags.
  • Even dietary changes can be done to change decrease the output so that during the social function there is a lesser need for a stoma change.
  •  How can I cover the drains and the Uro bags?

Drain bags and the uro bags can be covered with the normal clothes with drain tubes inside a stoma bag. Uro bags can be strapped to the thigh so that they are covered by the clothes and are not visible.

  • How can a person rehabilitate if he has an amputated limb?

Nowadays limb prosthesis are available which are of highest quality so that it imitates a normal limb and can have joints attached for good function of the limb.

There will be many unique things which you will come across during your journey. Let others also know!!

Key Points

  The changes in the body image can affect self-esteem – or how you feel about yourself.Cancer can change the way you look, temporarily or permanently.  
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