Keeping Your Self-Esteem Up After a Mastectomy

Guest post from Dr. Shyamali Singhal, MD

Surgical Oncologist

Founder of Hope & Beauty

 

The road to breast reconstruction starts following the diagnosis of breast cancer, often identified after mammogram imaging, a type of X-ray that looks at breast tissue. If a subsequent biopsy tests positive for cancer, the battle to fight it begins. If it’s decided that a mastectomy is the best solution, a general surgeon will complete this surgery. The surgeon can mention the feasibility of breast reconstruction. If this choice isn’t shown, the patient can start the dialogue with their surgeon.

Self-Esteem Determines How We View Ourselves

Self-esteem defines how we think and feel about ourselves, and normally refers to the importance we place on ourselves as a person. Unpleasant or stressful events can lower our self-esteem and positive experiences and achievements can help improve it.

Someone with low self-esteem tends to have a negative view of themselves and discovers it’s hard to recognize anything positive they’ve done or the nice qualities they have. It’s common to have high expectations of ourselves and be more critical of ourselves than others. And it can be difficult to ignore our inner critic while it pipes up frequently.

About 1 in 8 women in America will develop breast cancer in their life according to the American Cancer Society. Of these women, many will need a mastectomy, a procedure that removes the breast. This operation is often an imminent and life-saving option for women battling breast cancer. Nevertheless, it can leave various survivors feeling like they’ve lost a piece of their womanhood and self-confidence.

Self-Esteem Can Be Practiced And Improved

Coping with body image is an age-old tradition for women. We can be so critical in how we see ourselves. Too much fat, too skinny, bad skin, bad hair…every woman has one aspect of their bodies that they do not like or wish they could improve. Add getting breast cancer to the mix and all those insecurities get amplified. Our breasts are such an important part of our identity, even if they are the focus of our insecurities. They represent femininity, sexuality, beauty, and motherhood. So, it’s no wonder that about half of women with breast cancer struggle with body image after mastectomy

Even though it’s an important weapon in the fight against breast cancer, a mastectomy can take a serious emotional toll on a woman and even affect the way she looks at herself.

The loss of a woman’s breasts to cancer can affect her self-esteem, her sex drive, and just how she feels about herself as a woman.

But although it may take some getting used to and a lot of communication with her partner, a woman battling breast cancer can learn to love her post-mastectomy body and feel just as womanly and sexy as she did before breast cancer treatment.

Ways To Improve Self-Esteem

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Renewing your self-esteem can be tasking and often takes time and work. But there are some easy ideas you can do every day to help you feel more vigorous and better about yourself.

  • Celebrate the small things in life

Concentrating on positives can help us change our attitude and cut unaffirmative thinking practices. Try writing down some assertive things at the end of each day. Think about things that have passed, something you may have done or a blessing you experienced.

  • Challenge yourself

Perhaps you aspire to get back into a hobby you used to enjoy or learn something new. Make a feasible plan and set yourself a pragmatic deadline. Once you’ve finished it, congratulate yourself and let others compliment you too.

  • Be attentive

We can simply get hooked up in our feelings and consider them to be facts. But in fact, thoughts are just thoughts and are not indubitably true. When you see unhelpful thoughts try adding some affirmative phrase before the thought or dismiss them altogether. Techniques like these can help us take our thoughts less seriously.

  • Be kind to yourself

Self-compassion is not about indulgence, but more about recognition when we’re trying and not beating ourselves up for it. Watch out for that internal critic, and when you see it ask yourself: ‘What would I say in this situation to a good friend?’

  • Take time for yourself

We oftentimes don’t give enough time doing something we love or that makes us feel good about ourselves. Try to part in some ‘me time’ each day or week and don’t let yourself feel guilty – you deserve it.

  • Set yourself sensible expectations

Often we feel we should be ready to accomplish or perform some things and we beat ourselves up when we can’t do it. Remind yourself of everything you’ve been through and pace yourself. There is such a thing as ‘good enough’.

  • Care about yourself

Eat well and train constantly. Promoting physical well being can improve your emotional well being too. Running can give you an energy and mood boost, and eating well tells you you’re worth looking after.

Coping with breast cancer has many layers of complexity. While you will undoubtedly get strategies on dealing with the physical aspects, body image is one that doesn’t get talked about enough. Whether you are preserving your breasts, removing them, or reconstructing them, learning to accept and even love a post-treatment body can be a process.

Not All People Can Use The Same Advice

Everyone is complex and different from everyone else. Some women may feel treatment-related marks or their new breasts are noticeable reminders of defeating their disease that, while possibly not wanted, are valued. Others may struggle with their body image as a consequence of breast cancer, holding that the disease has overwhelmed what she and others associated with her womanhood. It’s also not unusual to feel both of these things or several others in between. But it’s important to know, that there is a way out of these emotions.


Dr. Shyamali Singhal, Founder of Hope & Beauty has over twenty years of experience as a Surgical Oncologist, and in that time she has obtained understanding and deep insight into all of the side-effects that radiation and chemotherapy can have on the body of a cancer patient.
“Cancer diagnosis and treatment can cause lasting trauma to patients’ bodies. Often, it has a devastating impact on minds too. That’s why acts of self-care, however small, are so important for all patients with a cancer diagnosis. Taking time – be it a day, an hour or even just a few minutes – to look after yourself, mentally and physically, can help manage the many issues the disease brings”, states Dr. Singhal.
She decided to help cancer patients by applying her expertise in selecting products that are suitable for cancer patients. Her mission with Hope & Beauty is to assist cancer patients as they’re recovering from cancer treatment. Dr. Singhal recognizes how important it is for cancer patients to look and feel good about themselves while they fight cancer, and recover from it.