Body image

Any change in appearance after breast cancer surgery may affect your self-esteem and feelings of femininity. The loss of your breast or any other body part can make you grieve, like a type of bereavement.

Wearing a prosthesis or getting a reconstruction can help improve self-confidence, and it helps some women feel whole again. 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. Changing your clothing and using accessories might make you feel more confident when wearing a breast prosthesis.


How to manage changes in body image and sexuality

Body image

  • Wear clothes that make you feel good and get your hair or nails done.
  • Focus on yourself as a whole person 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, 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. Visit Look Good Feel Better or call 1800 650 960.

Sexuality and intimacy

  • If you are using a prosthesis, wear it in an attractive bra or camisole.
  • Wear lingerie or a camisole, or drape a scarf or sarong over your scars, if you are self-conscious.
  • Touch, hold, hug, massage and caress your partner to reassure each other of your love and attraction.
  • Be open about what you are comfortable with. You might not be ready for your breast area to be touched, or you may want your partner to specifically touch this area.
  • Dim or turn off the lights.
  • Read Cancer Council’s booklet Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer – you can download a copy from this page.
  • Talk to your doctor, your breast care nurse or a counsellor about any ongoing problems.

This information was last reviewed in June 2017
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