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Oncology Body Confidence

Updated: Jul 19


Image of Emma Najman, author

After having breast surgery as a young child I always had scars, they were normal for me and didn't bother me. My sister had life saving open heart surgery as a young child and had a scar from her neck to her abdomen.


As a teenager and competitive tennis player I had a recurrence of my breast lump which I hid from everyone and continued to carry on as normal with competitions and training until I could barely lift my arm to serve.


The night before I was due to fly to Portugal to compete for my team in an international match I admitted to my mum I had a problem. I was terrified I had breast cancer, I was too scared to go and compete and worried I wouldn't be able to lift my arm to play, I was so sore.


I remember my embarrassment of being admitted to hospital, instead of flying to Portugal, surrounded by a less than empathic consultant with a tribe of young medical students, I cowered topless and listened to my story: "A 13 year old tennis player with an uncommon reccurence of an adolescent breast lump 12 years post surgery for a rare childhood breast abscess."


I later had further surgery to remove a benign lump.


The worst feeling at the time was missing out on the competition and the feeling that everyone was talking about me and my embarrasing illness.


I recovered quickly, returned to competition and didn't worry too much again, until my later teens when boys became an interest and my embarrassment returned.


I knew I looked different from the other girls my age. I was very flat chested but barely had any breast tissue at all on one side. I always focused on my attributes, I had long limbs, I could run fast, I could get to the drop shot tennis balls easily while my D cup best friend and doubles partner had other problems! All the boys were fascinated by her and would compete with each other to get close to her!


When life moved on and years later I got married and had my baby girl new tough times presented.

Trying to feed my daughter was nearly impossible and very painful with my scars, but I contiued to try my best. When she didn't gain weight I finally saw a lactation consultant who told me many of the ducts had been cut during the surgery so very little breast milk could get through to feed. I spent many painful hours on a breast pump trying to do the 'right' thing until I had to concede and bottle feed my baby.


I experienced so many hurtful comments from strangers!


Sitting on a train platform bottle feeding my daughter and one lady loudly saying to her friend, "Breast feeding is better for babies!"


Walking past the local pub with my daughter in her pram, one man sitting with his friends yelling out, "How ya gonna feed a baby with those?!"


We need high self confidence and self esteem to stay on top of our mental health and avoid depression, especially at vulnerable times like when a woman is thrust into motherhood and desparately trying to do the best for her baby with her bodies limitations, outside of her control, and subject to thoughtless judgement of others.


As my career as a Physiotherapist has progressed I have developed an interest in helping others to recover their physical and mental health after their surgery, including mastectomy, lumpectomy, amputation, colostomy, other cancer surgery, kidney, liver and lung transplant surgery.


I work with my patients to recover self confidence and self esteem and grow to love their battle scars, growing into their new normal.


Click below for a FREE Assessment to work out what YOU need to focus on to get you started:



After cancer surgery and treatment, body image is affected in many causing lack of confidence and self esteem.


Self esteem is a person's subjective sense of personal worth and value. It is how much you appreciate and like yourself regardless of the circumstances. Self esteem is defined by many factors including self confidence.


How does cancer affect body image?


Cancer treatment side effects include:

  • Hair loss

  • Fatigue

  • Weight changes

  • Surgery scars

  • Loss of body parts

  • Colostomy

  • Loss of self esteem

Maintaining high self esteem is important as low self esteem is linked to more depressive symptoms.


How do you support positive body image and high self esteem after cancer surgery and treatment?


1/ Allow yourself time to adjust to unavoidable changes including scars and loss of body parts. You will adapt over time to a new normal.


2/ Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to mourn the change to integrate it into you now.


3/ Seek support from other patients who have been through similar experiences to share feelings and provide hope and understanding.


4/ Talk 1 to 1 with a professional providing a safe space to open up about your feelings and learn new ways to cope and understand your own feelings.


5/ Embrace alternatives to help you to adapt to your physical changes:

  • Wigs, hats or scarves for hair loss,

  • Prosthesis for mastectomy or lumpectomy,

  • Reconstructive surgery,

  • Tattoos covering scars.


Image of a rose tattoo covering breast surgery scars

6/ Increase physical activity to feel more energetic and engaged, improving physical and mental health and well being.


Click below for a FREE Assessment to work out what YOU need to focus on to get you started:



Related Terms:

cancer surgery, breast cancer surgery, partial mastectomy, mastectomy, lumpectomy, colon cancer surgery, liver cancer surgery, rectal cancer surgery, skin cancer surgery, prostate surgery, pancreatic cancer surgery, pancreatic cancer treatment, thyroid cancer treatment, testicular cancer treatment, kidney cancer treatment, stomach cancer treatment, mouth cancer treatment, oral cancer treatment, colorectal cancer treatment, oesophageal cancer treatment, endometrial cancer treatment, bowel cancer treatment, colon cancer treatment, skin cancer treatment, brain cancer treatment, brain tumour treatment, breast cancer treatment, cervical cancer treatment, ovarian cancer treatment, cancer treatment, radiotherapy for breast cancer, radiation for breast cancer, lymph node removal, lung cancer, gastric cancer, head and neck cancer.





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