Changes in appearance
For women, any change in appearance after breast surgery may affect self-esteem and feelings of femininity. It is normal to experience sadness and grief after losing a breast or breasts, or losing your hair.
Try to focus on yourself as a whole person and not just on the part of you that has changed. It may take some time to get used to seeing and feeling the differences in your body. Some women find that having a breast reconstruction or wearing a breast prosthesis improves their self-confidence. Other women prefer to concentrate on accepting the changes in their body without having breast reconstruction or wearing a prosthesis.
Look Good Feel Better is a free program that teaches techniques to help you feel more confident in your appearance and improve self- confidence. Call 1800 650 960 for more information.
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Breast prostheses are synthetic breasts or parts of a breast worn inside a bra or attached to the body with adhesive. They help give the appearance of a real breast and can be used after breast surgery.
Temporary prosthesis − In the first month or two after surgery, you may choose to wear a temporary light breast prosthesis called a soft form. This will be more comfortable next to your scar. A free bra and soft forms are available through Breast Cancer Network Australia as part of the My Care Kit. Ask your breast care nurse to order you a kit.
Permanent prosthesis − Your breast surgeon or breast care nurse will discuss the best time for you to be fitted for a permanent breast prosthesis. This is usually once your scar has healed. A permanent breast prosthesis is usually made from silicone and has the shape, feel and weight of a natural breast. It can help you to maintain good posture and prevent neck and back problems. It is recommended that you see a trained fitter who can help you choose the right prosthesis. To find out where you can get fitted for a prosthesis, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or ask your breast care nurse.
For more on this, see Breast Prostheses and Reconstruction.
If you lose your hair during chemotherapy treatment, you may want to wear a wig, scarf, turban or hat while it’s growing back. Another option is to leave your head bare.
You can borrow a wig – some hospitals and cancer care units provide wigs for free or a small fee. Your local Cancer Council may also provide a wig service. You can also buy a wig, although some types can be expensive. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or ask your treatment team for more details about borrowing or buying wigs. Some private health cover part of the cost of wigs – check with your health fund.
For more on this, see Hair Loss.
Prof Christobel Saunders, Professor of Surgical Oncology and Head, Division of Surgery, The University of Western Australia, and Consultant Surgeon, Royal Perth, Fiona Stanley and St John of God Subiaco Hospitals, WA; Dr Marie-Frances Burke, Radiation Oncologist, Medical Director, Genesis CancerCare Queensland, QLD; Kylie Campbell, Breast Care Nurse and Clinical Lead, Murraylands, McGrath Foundation, SA; Carmen Heathcote, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Annmaree Mitchell, Consumer; Sarah Pratt, Nurse Coordinator, Breast Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Wendy Vincent, Breast Physician, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick, NSW, and Clinical Director BreastScreen NSW, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Nicholas Wilcken, Director of Medical Oncology, Westmead Hospital, and Co-ordinating Editor, Cochrane Breast Cancer Group, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. This booklet is funded through the generosity of the people of Australia.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.
Managing sexual changes – men and women
Includes tips for coping with changes in appearance and loss of a body part
Physical effects and emotions
How to manage emotions when cancer treatment has caused physical changes
The role of partners
Tips for maintaining intimacy when your partner has had cancer treatment