Changes to appearance

Many types of surgery for head and neck cancers will change the way you look.

Learn more about:

Common physical changes

Common physical changes include: weight loss; tube feeding; having a tracheostomy; and using speech devices. These changes may be temporary or permanent.

Other common changes include:


Improved surgical techniques mean that scarring is unlikely to be significant for most people. Scars from surgery are often hidden in the neck or in skin creases on the face, and usually fade over time.


If your eye or part of the jaw, nose, ear or skin is removed, your face will look different. This is the case for many people who have had extensive surgery for head and neck cancer. Some people will have reconstructive surgery using tissue from another part of the body, which may also change their appearance. Other people may have a prosthesis, which is a soft plastic replacement for the tissue that has been removed (for example, a nose prosthesis). A prosthesis is fitted by a specialist in facial prosthetics and blends in well with your own features. If it is likely you will need a prosthesis, the doctor will discuss this with you before the operation.


In some cases, your surgeon will cut through your jaw (mandibulotomy) and reconstruct it with a plate. This involves a cut through your chin and lip, and the scars will be visible for some time.


Surgery or radiation therapy can damage lymph nodes and this can cause swelling in the tissues in the head and neck. Sometimes the swelling develops internally and is difficult to see. This swelling is known as lymphoedema.

Tips for adjusting to appearance changes

You may be distressed or embarrassed about significant changes to the way you look. You may feel that any noticeable changes make you less attractive and worry that others will reject you.

Give yourself time to get used to any physical changes. Try to see yourself as a whole person (body, mind and personality) and not just focus on the part of you that has changed. Many people find it helps to talk about their concerns with a family member, friend or counsellor.

Talk to your doctors about how surgery and reconstruction will affect your appearance and the possibility of having plastic surgery or a facial prosthesis to rebuild parts of your face and neck. They may be able to suggest strategies to help you cope with the changes and refer you to support services.

You may also like to get in touch with the Look Good Feel Better program. This free two-hour program explains how to use skin care, hats and wigs to help restore appearance and self-esteem during and after treatment. It is aimed at men and women. Visit Look Good Feel Better for more information and to book into a workshop.

Listen to our podcasts on Cancer Affects the Carer Too and Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on head and neck cancers

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in September 2019
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