PUBLISHED ON: 14 May 2014

Breast cancer treatments can leave people dealing with many physical and emotional changes.

The side effects of treatment whether temporary or permanent can profoundly affect the way a woman views her body. Women describe feeling a ‘loss of self’ – who they were before cancer – together with a loss of femininity anxiety and depression and not feeling sexy or sexually attractive.

Yet many women fear that compared to the life-threatening nature of their illness body image issues are seen as trivial. This can mean they’re reluctant to seek help.

It takes time

When you have had breast cancer it can take time to get used to such changes and to adjust to life after hospital treatment.

Surgery causes scars and loss of feeling and sensitivity; hormone treatments can bring menopausal symptoms; chemotherapy can cause hair loss and changes to skin and nails. Treatments can also cause weight gain.

For all these reasons it can be hard to revive self-esteem and confidence particularly when partners friends and family might accidentally be adding pressure because they are anxious to move on and ‘get back to normal’.

Lingerie Evenings

For some women wearing a prosthesis is a temporary choice before they have a later breast reconstruction. Others may choose not (or be unable) to have a reconstruction and so may wear a prosthesis long term.

Whatever your situation finding a well-fitting bra after breast cancer can be challenging. But it can be important to how you feel about your body image since good underwear often helps people to wear clothes with confidence.

At our free Lingerie Evenings you get the chance to be fitted and to see how the lingerie looks on volunteer models who have all had breast cancer themselves.

You can also download or order our free booklet Breast prostheses, bras and clothes after surgery

Diet and physical activity

Many are not prepared for the weight gain that often happens during and after treatment. And losing weight can take time.

If this has happened with you there may be simple changes you can make to the way you eat and your physical activities that will help you to lose weight and keep it off. This in turn can improve the way you feel about your body.

You can find lots of tips here on healthy eating and getting active after treatment.

Go to our podcast channel to download our fitness video

Sex and intimacy

We know that feeling less confident about your body after breast cancer can affect sexual and intimate relationships. We get thousands of calls every year to our Support Line and questions to our Ask the Nurse email service on this subject.

Download or order our free booklet Your body, intimacy and sex

Talk and support

Talking openly with partners, family and friends about how you feel and accessing professional support when you need it can all help you to reach a ‘new normal’.