Self-image is how individuals view themselves.  This can change because of cancer and its treatment, due physical and emotional changes that happen during and after the illness.

Physical changes can include:

  • Hair loss and nail damage
  • Changes in body weight
  • Fatigue (physical and mental)
  • Loss of sexual desire and vaginal dryness
  • Surgical scars
  • Colostomy (temporary or permanent after colon cancer)
  • Loss of organ, limb or breast
  • Mouth ulcers

Emotional changes can also occur:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of metastasis and/or cancer recurrence
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness or feeling misunderstood

How can we deal with changes during this difficult time?

  • Allow time to adjust: Cancer diagnosis and treatment are not a ride in the park. Be patient with yourself.
  • Build a network of friends and family who can support you and help you feel positive. Join a support group of survivors who have passed through your experience. It helps to know you are not alone.
  • Ask for practical help. You might not have the energy to pick up the kids from school or cook during your first few days of chemo….accept and ask for help.
  • Let your health care team know your worries and concerns. Keep a notebook with you at all times and jot down questions you want to ask during your next hospital visit.
  • Remain active: This can help you feel better during treatment. Social activities can also help you focus on something other than cancer.


Anna Catania is a counsellor with Willingness. She has had a special interest in working with clients facing intimacy and sexual difficulties and runs a service for families going through cancer and chronic illness. She can be contacted on