Maximise Your Choices Following A Cancer Diagnosis

Female cancer patients can experience a loss of self-esteem and body confidence.

Sadly, there are around 360,000 new cases of cancer being diagnosed in the UK each year, with around 177,000 of these being female. Cancer Research UK reveals that breast cancer is the most common type of cancer for women, with 150 new incidences every day. Cancer can be a daunting and overwhelming diagnosis for any woman to receive, and there may be some specific areas of concern for those who are about to undergo treatment.

Hair Loss

Common treatments for cancer can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy as well as surgical removal of a tumour. Often a combination of these treatments is recommended as the most aggressive and successful way to treat the condition. However, chemo and radiation therapy are known to come with physical side effects such as the loss of hair on your head, body, eyelashes and eyebrows. Understandably this can be hard for many to deal with, particularly if you don’t want many people to be aware of your diagnosis. In any case, a change in your physical appearance can affect self-esteem. It’s important to know though, that hair loss is only temporary and in the meantime, there are some excellent wigs for women on the market that look truly natural and can help to restore your confidence at this unsettling time.

Your Fertility

If your cancer diagnosis has occurred before your plans to start a family, then you may be concerned about your chances of conceiving following treatment. If your medical team has recommended chemotherapy, then it’s important to be aware of its possible effects on your fertility. Chemo can put your body into early menopause, or damage your existing eggs, so if you hope to be able to get pregnant following treatment, it’s a good idea to freeze your healthy eggs before therapy starts.  

Ideally a selection of mature eggs would be collected from your ovaries, as this will produce the best chances of IVF success. However, it can take several weeks to fully stimulate your eggs with hormones to allow them to become fully mature. If your doctor recommends that your chemotherapy should start imminently, then it may be possible for younger candidates to have immature eggs removed, which would then be matured outside of the body prior to IVF treatment.

Reconstructive Breast Surgery

For those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and require a mastectomy to remove the breast and underlying tumour, this can have a huge effect on a woman’s confidence. Many women link their breasts with their femininity, so such a loss may affect their self-esteem as well as relationships with a partner. For those who are struggling with the idea of a mastectomy, it’s possible to have reconstructive surgery performed – this involves using an implant as well as tissue from your back or tummy region to create a breast shape with either a tattooed or prosthetic nipple. Another option is to use an external prosthetic breast shape instead of the reconstruction – it’s entirely your choice and you don’t need to make the decision immediately. Reconstructive surgery can be delayed until several months or years later, giving you plenty of time to become comfortable with the idea.

A cancer diagnosis is undoubtedly overwhelming, but you’re not alone. Take time to reach out to your network of professionals and research the options that are available to you, not just in terms of your treatment, but also in supporting you throughout and following this journey.