Cancer side effects: 4 tips for coping with appearance changes

March 25, 2015 | by Denise Heady

beauty bus event Cancer side effects can take a toll on self-confidence. Here, patient Veronica Bedjakian receives a makeover during a recent Beauty Bus event at City of Hope's Positive Image Center.

The physical side effects of cancer can damage anyone's self-confidence, but especially that of women who, rightly or wrongly, are more likely to find their appearance (or their own perception of their appearance) directly connected to their ability to face the world with something resembling aplomb.

Further, although many people may think they're prepared for such side effects, the reality is often different.

City of Hope understands this.

  • The Positive Image CenterSM routinely sponsors complimentary events and beauty classes for patients going through treatment.
  • It hosts monthly Look Good . . . Feel Better sessions, part of a free, national program sponsored by the American Cancer Society for women currently undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. The classes are taught by specially trained, licensed cosmetologists on skin care techniques, alternatives for hair loss and much more.
  • And twice a year, City of Hope welcomes the Beauty Bus, a mobile self-confidence boost that "delivers dignity, hope and respite to chronically ill men, women and children and their caregivers through beauty and grooming services and pampering products."
This healing-on-wheels program brings complimentary salon services to patients directly, many of whom have compromised immune systems that prevent them from going to salons.

Amy Donner, L.C.S.W., in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine at City of Hope, offers the following tips for anyone, especially women, struggling with the physical changes of cancer.

  1. Take an active role to cope with changes in your appearance. “It is important to find ways to nurture yourself while going through treatment,” Donner said. “Setting aside time to pamper yourself can bring a sense of joy and normalcy to your life.”
  1. Acknowledge and share your struggles. Be honest and direct about your feelings, Donner advised. Seek support from loved ones and professionals as needed. Also, talk with people who have been through similar treatments to understand how they coped with changes in their appearance. They might have useful tips, too. If not, at least they'll empathize.
  1. Make sure caregivers are included in the pampering. “Cancer treatment affects not only the patient but their loved ones as well,” Donner said. “Caregivers are often under a lot of stress. It is important for caregivers to also set aside time to nurture themselves so they can best support their loved one.”
  1. Seek a creative outlet to express your feelings. Cancer treatment disrupts a person's life.  People in treatment must find ways to cope with the emotions created by a cancer diagnosis and therapy. For City of Hope patients, the Department of Supportive Care offers a variety of creative classes, including yoga, art, music and writing; non-City of Hope patients find these vital as well – and should seek them out.

Visit Living with Cancer for more tips, tools and resources on how patients, caregivers and families can address the many physical and emotional issues that can arise during and after cancer treatment.

Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.


Categories : Patient Care

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