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It’s very common for women, and increasingly for men, to be unhappy with their appearance. More and more people are trying to improve things they don’t like through plastic surgery, weight loss, exercise programmes or by buying products.
These days, there’s a lot of emphasis on appearance and we are surrounded by images of attractive, healthy, perfect bodies. But the pictures we see in newspapers, magazines, on television and on the internet are often not realistic. Many celebrity photographs are digitally altered to make them look better. This ‘ideal’ image is therefore usually not possible for anyone, whether they have a cancer diagnosis or not.
The way you think and feel about your body is closely related to how you feel about yourself. It can affect your relationships with your partner|, family, friends or work colleagues. It can also affect how you feel when meeting people you don’t know for the first time.
Some people adapt well to body changes caused by cancer and its treatment| over time. However, others can become anxious|, less confident or depressed|. They can withdraw from relationships and from social activities they enjoy.
The effect on a person is not always related to the size, severity or visibility of the change. For example, a small hidden scar can still affect a person’s mood, confidence and sexuality|.
At first, changes can seem overwhelming and hard to deal with. Everyone adapts at their own pace and this may take weeks, months or sometimes years.
As children we all learn to walk and talk at different times. Illness is just the same - everyone responds in a different way. It’s important to try not to run before you can walk or to expect too much of yourself. We often compare ourselves to other people but we are all individuals.
Some people may think more about other peoples’ needs instead of their own. But it’s important to remember that your needs are important too. It’s okay to take time to look after yourself. It might help to think about the advice you would give to a friend if they were in the same situation.
It may be useful to think about what you’ve been through - you could write down your thoughts on a piece of paper.
It can be easy to focus on change in a negative way. But remember that you can take control and find ways and people to help you adapt. Sometimes this starts as you begin to look after yourself again, see or touch the affected area or socialise with family and friends. There are various things which can help at different times and in different situations, so having a range of approaches is useful.
Content last reviewed: 1 July 2010
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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