My body my self: Body image and sexuality in women with cancer

Anne Katz


Women undergoing treatment for cancer report ongoing issues related to sexuality and sexual functioning. In my work as a sexuality counsellor at a large ambulatory care centre, I have spent many hours talking with and counselling these women and their partners. A common theme is the centrality of the experience of alterations to body image. Body image problems are associated with mastectomy, hair loss from chemotherapy, alterations in weight, low self-esteem, and the partner having difficulty understanding the feelings of the woman and her partner. This is something that can be addressed by nurses at all stages of the cancer trajectory. While alterations to body image can occur with any type of cancer, the most frequently reported complaints occur in women treated for breast and gynecological cancer. This article describes the problems encountered by women and suggests some nursing interventions that may be helpful.

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