Look and Feel Your Best During Cancer Treatment

Treatment for cancer may cause changes in your appearance that you may or may not have expected. These can include hair loss, fingernail changes, skin discoloration, weight gain, and weight loss. Though the changes are often temporary, they can be an extra burden during an already upsetting time.

Caring for your appearance can help you feel better about yourself. It’s especially important when you’re ill, because it can be harder to feel good about yourself when you’re sick.

According to Stacy London, co-host of TLC’s What Not to Wear, style isn’t just about how you look. London said, “[Style] bolsters your spirit. There’s power just in getting dressed every day and not staying in your pajamas.”

Some tips for cancer patients and survivors:

  • Keep up with your regular grooming habits, such as shaving, putting on make-up, and fixing your hair, even if you are confined to bed.
  • Have your clothes altered if you lose or gain weight.
  • Pamper yourself. Have a manicure or pedicure, a facial, a massage, or something else that makes you feel good. (Check with your doctor or nurse first.)
  • Use an electric razor for routine shaving to prevent nicks and cuts.
  • Exercise each day, but only as much as you can manage comfortably. Ask your doctor or nurse about an exercise plan, or just take slow, easy walks.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Keep up with regular dental care.
  • If you are bothered by hair falling out, you may choose to cut your hair very short or even shave your head.
  • If you buy a wig before hair loss begins, the wig shop can better match your hair color and texture. Or you can cut a swatch of hair from the top front of your head, where hair is lightest, to use for matching. Ask if the wig can be adjusted – your wig size can shrink as you lose hair.
  • Be sure to get a prescription from your doctor for the wig because it may be covered by insurance.
  • Some people find wigs to be hot or itchy. In that case, turbans or scarves can be used instead of wigs. Cotton items tend to stay on your smooth scalp better than nylon or polyester.

Other Resources

Tlc (Tender Loving Care) is the American Cancer Society’s direct mail/online catalog and magazine for women with dealing with cancer side effects. It offers helpful articles and a line of products including wigs, hairpieces, breast forms, post-mastectomy bras, hats, turbans, swimwear, and accessories. You can order by phone at 1-800-850-9445 or online at tlcdirect.org.

Look Good Feel Better is a free, national public service program developed by the Personal Care Products Council in cooperation with the American Cancer Society and the Professional Beauty Association. It helps women cancer patients improve their appearance and self-image by teaching them hands on beauty techniques to manage the appearance side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The American Cancer Society holds about 16,000 workshops each year in roughly 2,800 facilities nationwide. Call 1-800-227-2345 to find a workshop near you.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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