Breast Cancer and Body Image

It is not unusual for a patient to feel that breast cancer has attacked, not only her breast tissue, but her body image as well. After all, women’s breasts have been a symbol of sexuality and fertility since time immemorial.

Whether a patient had her breasts removed, preserved them, or had them reconstructed, learning to accept and be comfortable with her body during and after treatment is a process – a personal journey. If you are a breast cancer patient or survivor, be sure to include your partner, family, and friends in your journey. Getting adequate support, information, and love can go a long way.

In addition, never hesitate to talk about your body image concerns with your physician, therapist, or a breast reconstruction specialist. Be your own advocate for care!

Feeling good about your body

Breast cancer does not only give you mastectomy scars. Along with the mental and emotional stress that comes with getting cancer treatment, a lot of women find themselves coping with changes in their appearance caused by cancer treatment.

There are some short term changes, like hair loss. Chemotherapy sometimes causes others to gain weight. Other changes are permanent, such as the loss of part or all of one or both breasts.

Surgical options

Breasts are considered an intimate part of the body, and this is mainly why many women become self-conscious about their breasts. During diagnosis, most women are faced with these possible options: partial mastectomy, lumpectomy, and mastectomy, and breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

When weighing surgical choices, women have a lot to consider – the physician’s recommendations, her type of cancer, the risk of recurrence, family history, and any body image concerns.

Regardless of the changes you may experience, it is important for the patient to know that there is an abundance of information and support to help you cope. A good starting point would be to talk to your doctors and other members of your care team. Don’t hesitate to reach out to other breast cancer survivors through a support group. One good example of such a group is the American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery program. In this program, you will be paired with another woman who has been there and can empathize with your situation. Your volunteer can give you suggestions, answer your questions, and give you advice and additional reading material.

Breast cancer can feel socially isolating. Get access to the support and information you need. If you are struggling with body image concerns related to a breast cancer diagnosis, know that your breast reconstruction experts at Breast Reconstruction Associates are ready and willing to help.