If resources and/or insurance coverage allows, women may find it helpful to meet with a nutritionist and discuss ways to support healthy weight management during treatment. Clinicians can further assist women in locating exercise classes suitable to take during treatment. Some women find that actively partaking in group fitness classes or working to eat healthier can restore some of the control that cancer has taken away from them.
Assist women in locating proper post-surgical garments during mastectomy and reconstruction. Insurance may cover some of these items, but the cost can be prohibitive for others. Locate in-kind donations or financial assistance programs. Above all, clinicians should validate and support whatever mastectomy and/or reconstruction choice women make, understanding that each woman is the expert about what is right for her body.
Don’t be afraid to ask if a woman has discussed lymphedema with her doctor, and encourage her to have a conversation. If needed, help her locate compression garments and financial assistance.
Refer women to peer mentoring programs where they can connect with other women who have had similar treatment experiences. Peer support can further normalize body-image concerns and model positive adaptation. Women who have pronounced body-image concerns may benefit from professional counseling referrals. CancerCare provides numerous free fact sheets on topics such as hair loss, prostheses, skin care, nutrition, lymphedema, and weight changes with additional education and tips on coping with body-image concerns.
Stacy Lewis is the Women’s Cancers Program Coordinator at CancerCare.
. Christ G, Messner C, Behar L, eds. Handbook of Oncology Social Work: Psychosocial Care for People With Cancer. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2015.
2. Piot-Ziegler C, Sassi ML, Raffoul W, et al. Mastectomy, body deconstruction, and impact on identity: a qualitative study. Br J Health Psychol. 2010;15(3):479–510.
3. Heppner PP, Tierney CG, Wang Y, et al. Breast cancer survivors coping with lymphedema: what all counselors need to know. J Couns Dev. 2009;87:327–338.