- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Breast prostheses and reconstruction
- Looking after yourself
- Body image
Body image after breast surgery
Any change in appearance after breast cancer surgery may affect the way you think and feel about yourself (your confidence and self-esteem). It is normal to experience sadness and grief after breast surgery. You may find that your sense of identity or femininity has been affected.
Learn more about:
- Getting used to the differences in your body
- Talking to health professionals
- How to manage changes in body image
Getting used to the differences in your body
It may take some time to get used to seeing and feeling the differences in your body. You may find that having a breast reconstruction or wearing a breast prosthesis improves your self-confidence. However, you may prefer to concentrate on accepting the changes in your body without wearing a prosthesis or having breast reconstruction.
Changing your clothing and using accessories might make you feel more confident when wearing a breast prosthesis. If you have a reconstruction, it will take time to adjust to the different way a reconstructed breast looks, feels or moves. The appearance of the breast will improve with time as scars heal and fade. Some women say it takes 3–12 months after reconstruction to feel better about their body image.
Talking to health professionals
Talking to health professionals such as psychologists, counsellors or psychiatrists may be helpful. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for a referral. These health professionals may help you find strategies to help with your recovery.
It may also help to talk to someone who has had a similar experience. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for information on support services.
How to manage changes in body image
- Wear clothes that make you feel good and get your hair or nails done.
- Focus on yourself as a whole person (body, mind and personality) and not just the part of you that has changed.
- Draw attention to other parts of your body by using colours, clothing, make-up or accessories.
- Do activities that you enjoy or things that make you feel good about yourself, such as walking, listening to music, working or studying, having a massage, relaxing outside or volunteering.
- Register for a free Look Good Feel Better workshop, which offers tips and techniques to help restore appearance and self-esteem for people during or after cancer treatment.
A/Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and Clinical Associate Professor, The University of Sydney, NSW; Dragana Ceprnja, Senior Physiotherapist and Health Professional Educator, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Jan Davies, Consumer; Rosemerry Hodgkin, Consumer; Gillian Horton, Owner and Director, Colleen’s Lingerie and Swimwear, ACT; Ashleigh Mondolo, Clinical Nurse Consultant Breast Care Nurse, Mater Private Hospital South Brisbane, QLD; Dr Jane O’Brien, Specialist Oncoplastic Breast Cancer Surgeon, St Vincent’s Private Hospital, VIC; Moira Waters, Breast Care Nurse, Breast Cancer Care WA; Sharon Woolridge, Consumer; Rebecca Yeoh, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.