How you look

I've heard cancer treatment may affect my appearance. Now I keep thinking it means my boyfriend might go off me.

Advice columnist and relationship expert Matt Whyman answers:

Some cancers and treatments may affect the way you look. Even temporary changes, such as hair loss during chemotherapy, can be tough to deal with. We're talking about the impact on your body image, which is the way you see yourself, and how it makes you feel.

Find out what to expect

Start by talking to a member of your care team, not just about possible changes to your appearance but the emotional impact too.

According to senior social work practitioner Urvashi Tripathi it can be a challenge but help is available. "It can take some time to adjust," she says, "Social workers and nurses at your hospital can support you with your body image, and link you to resources to help you look and feel better."

Remind yourself that you're still the same person on the inside, something that can never change.

Talk about your concerns

If your boyfriend has your best interests at heart he'll recognise your concerns and seek to reassure you.

Raise the issue with a view to putting your mind at ease. This could help you relax in his company and allow your personality to shine, the most important thing you can offer any relationship.

Lucia, a 25-year-old who's had cancer, also advises talking to your boyfriend. She said, "I'm sure he'll remind you that he likes you for yourself, and he's not going to reject you because of something that is out of your control. Everyone is different and it's important to remember that you might not experience all of the changes that you've been told about. It could be that your appearance will return to the way it was before, when your treatment is finished."  

Look good feel better

Clinical psychologist Kate Hancock says:"Look Good Feel Better events can boost your confidence, and if hair loss is a problem, your care team may be able to help you find a wig made from real hair.”


Content added: November 2015
Review due: November 2017 

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