Encourage physical activity Patients should be encouraged to remain as active as possible because physical activity allows them to feel more energetic and once again engaged.

Climate also plays a part in how patients feel about body image/self-esteem. In warmer months, nurses may encounter more patients with anxiety about their appearance because of increased outdoor activities when more skin is exposed. At the same time, the heat poses another concern. Patients with skin cancers or who are taking certain medications have to be mindful about sun exposure. Concerns such as these tend to be more acute in young adult cancer patients. Covering up changes to the body is a lot easier during colder months; patients are more likely to wear clothes such as turtlenecks, hats, and additional accessories that hide some of the adverse effects treatment has had on their bodies.

When speaking to patients and their loved ones, remember to provide as much support as possible. Let the patients know that they are not alone and that there are people ready and willing to help. Nurses can also let patients know that organizations such as CancerCare provide many free services including counseling and support groups. Patients can call 1-800-813-HOPE (4673) to speak with one of CancerCare’s oncology social workers.


Leeann Medina-Martinez is an oncology social worker at CancerCare.


References

1. Self-image and cancer. Cancer.Net website. https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/managing-emotions/self-image-and-cancer. Accessed May 14, 2019.

2. Self-esteem. Merriam-Webster website. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/self-esteem. Accessed May 14, 2019.

3. Schapmire T, Faul A. Cancer and older adults (65 plus). In: 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:Chapter 72.

4. Messner C, Kornhauser C, Canosa R. The biopsychosocial implications of the site of the cancer. In: 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:Chapter 11.