Having breast surgery is often a very common part of people’s breast cancer journeys. Whether you have a single or double mastectomy, it can be incredibly difficult to feel comfortable in your own body after the surgery. While there are multiple options for patients who have mastectomies, the physical changes a patient experiences during and after treatments can cause a lack of body confidence. Research finds that this is especially the case in young people, with questions of fertility and intimacy being brought up frequently and adding to their stresses.
Many patients do struggle to look at themselves in the mirror after having a mastectomy but experts suggest that the best way to tackle this difficulty is by facing it as soon as possible. Feeling comfortable with looking at yourself in a mirror fully clothed, then in underwear, and finally, naked, should help people to gradually get used to their body. It is hugely important to take each step at your own pace. Breast Cancer Now also suggests that if you have a partner, allowing them to see your body soon after your surgery may help to improve intimacy and comfort in the future. However, if you still struggle with body image after trying these steps, it might be worthwhile to see a counsellor for some extra support, which can be accessed through your GP or breast cancer nurse.
Patients that have mastectomies do have a variety of options for what they want to do after their surgery. Many opt for full or partial reconstructions whilst others prefer to wear a prosthesis. Often, it is assumed that reconstructions make the healing process easier for the cancer survivor. However, many women struggle to reconnect with their femininity even after a breast reconstruction. Scores of women have mentioned feeling unsure about the shape and feel of their new breasts. Reconstructions are unable to bring back the feeling to your breasts, which can make it a confusing and sometimes upsetting process. Therefore, it is essential that those who choose to have mastectomies are aware of the support that is available to them.
Being able to talk openly about how your surgery has made you feel and the changes in your body with friends and family can help to improve your mindset. While your family may not be able to fully understand the emotional impact this surgery can have, they can still provide support and a listening ear. Other aid can come in the form of a support group or an event. A great example of this would be Lingerie Evenings, in which experienced bra fitters can help fit you and pick out new lingerie that will make you feel more confident in your body. Searching in your local area for creative support groups or exercise classes for post-mastectomy patients can be a great way to meet new people who have similar experiences to you and can allow you to try something new, rather than opting for the usual (and sometimes intimidating) therapy sessions.
Every person’s experience with mastectomies is different. Some people may experience extreme body dysmorphia compared to others who may find the healing process easier. Regaining body confidence after a mastectomy can be difficult and it is so important to search for help if you are really struggling.
Image courtesy of Gemma Chua-Tran