Some of the most sudden and shocking changes for breast cancer patients are in their physical appearance. These physical changes can have a serious impact on how survivors feel about themselves.
For many women, changes in weight are an immediate side effect during anti-estrogen therapy. For others, hair loss is common during breast cancer treatment, especially following chemotherapy. Many women may also have their breasts removed through surgery, and have to choose whether or not they want to get breast reconstruction. These changes leave many women feeling insecure, as if they are in a body that is not their own. Ultimately, these physical side effects can impact a woman’s emotional state. The end result – an overwhelming feeling of unattractiveness and low self-esteem.
Overcoming body image issues is no easy task. It requires time and patience and the support of others. The most reassuring point to keep in mind is that there are many other survivors who are feeling the exact same way. Addressing body image issues is essential to improve the quality of life for breast cancer survivors. We have listed three tips to help you feel confident in your skin, and to take control of your breast cancer journey so that you may find your new normal.
- Communication: The best way to address your body image and overall self-esteem is to talk about your feelings rather than suppress them. The key is finding people you’re comfortable enough to share with, whether it’s having a discussion with your doctor, sharing stories in a support group, or communicating with your partner. Sometimes, it is even helpful to write your feelings in a journal, and share them later on when you are more comfortable.
- Eat respectfully and remain active: A healthy diet and physical activity can help you feel better about yourself throughout your cancer journey. More importantly, eating right and exercise is crucial to staying healthy following cancer treatment. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, breast cancer survivors should increase their intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to decrease fat intake, and to reduce alcohol consumption. And, net suggests keeping up physical activity as a means to create positive energy and help you focus on something other than cancer.
- Be positive: When you look into a mirror, reaffirm to yourself how confident and lovely you are, even if you want to put yourself down. Women on hormonal therapies can experience many side effects that make their body feel weird and different, but it is important to remember that these feelings are normal, and that you will feel like yourself again in only a matter of time. Besides, a study from Annals of Oncology confirmed that women taking hormonal therapies experienced twice as many side effects if they held negative expectations, compared to women who believed the side effects would not be as bad.