Youth Cancer

Dealing With Physical Changes

Everyone experiences body image issues at some time in their life, particularly young people. Your body image issues might be heightened by your cancer experience.

  • Some cancer treatments will not affect the way you look but others can. These changes may be temporary or permanent.
  • It is completely normal for you to feel anxious about the physical changes to your body during or after treatment.
  • The main thing to remember is that no matter what physical changes your body has gone through, you are still the same person.


You may experience one or all of these emotions as a result of changes in your appearance because of cancer treatment:

  • Anxiety
  • Lack of confidence
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Uncertainty
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability


Relationships with friends

  • If you are worried about your appearance you may feel shy or withdrawn from others and not feel like socialising.
  • Some people may feel embarrassed about the way they look and worry that their friends may think differently about them. 
  • Talking to your friends about how you feel can be a good way to push past these thoughts and let them know you’d appreciate their support during this time.
  • For more information on relationships with friends when you have cancer, visit this fact sheet.


Romantic Relationships

  • If you have a partner, talking to them about how you are feeling about the changes to your body is a good way to let them know you need their support.
  • Being open and honest about how you feel may also make them feel less awkward and they will be able to support you better.
  • For more information on romantic relationships when you have cancer, visit this fact sheet.


Future Relationships

You may feel less attractive or worried you won’t get a girlfriend or boyfriend. By working on building up your confidence and restoring your body image, these worries should lessen over time.


Physical changes you may experience after or during treatment

  • Hair loss
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Feeling Tired


Permanent changes you may experience after treatment

  • Scarring from surgery
  • Loss of a limb
  • Infertility


Dealing with changes to your body as a result of cancer treatment

It is important to remember that although your body may change throughout your cancer journey, you are still the same person and there are heaps of resources available to you to help you adapt to your new body.

Here are some things you can do to help you cope with the changes to your body:

Give yourself time

It may take time to get used any changes and that’s ok.

Join a support network

Talk to other young people who are going through or have already gone through the physical changes you are experiencing due to cancer treatment.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about your concerns

It is always good to get factual information from the right sources.

Speak to a counsellor or seek out a health care professional

Talking about your feelings can make you feel better and understand why you feel the way you do.

You may not be able to do the same sports/activities as you did before cancer

Take this as a chance to try something new that you haven’t done before.

Keep your body healthy

Help yourself to feel good by eating nutritious foods and exercising no more than your body can handle. Talk to your doctor about exactly how much exercise you can be doing.

Regain confidence in how you look

Wear clothes that make you feel good.

Socialise with the right people

Hang out with people that make you feel good and accept you as you are.


You may be asked questions from friends or relatives about your appearance

  • Friends and family won’t mean any harm, but they may want to ask you questions about your cancer journey and subsequently, changes in your appearance.
  • It is a good idea to think about how you might respond to these questions.
  • Or you may decide to simply tell people you don’t want to talk about it. That’s ok too.