Managing appearance changes resulting from cancer treatment: resilience in adolescent females
Wallace, M., Harcourt, D., Rumsey, N. and Foot, A. (2007) Managing appearance changes resulting from cancer treatment: resilience in adolescent females. Psycho-Oncology, 16 (11). pp. 1019-1027. ISSN 1057-9249
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/pon.1176
Typically, adolescence is marked by cognitive and physical developments impacting on self-esteem, independence and sexual awareness, often resulting in increased appearance awareness and dissatisfaction. Adolescents with cancer have the additional burden of illness, treatments and resultant appearance changes. This study aimed to explore the impact of these changes on adolescents who have had cancer. In depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with six females between 14 and 19 years who had completed treatment within the previous two years, and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Concerns around an altered appearance were significant during treatment, serving as a constant reminder of ‘difference’ and a marker of illness. However, since treatment, participants expressed an apparent shift in views and expectations of their appearance, as well as the value placed on it—expressing increased satisfaction with their own appearance and a decrease in its importance. While important to acknowledge the distress and challenges experienced by participants, results highlight the need for research and care to focus on positive experiences of patients, rather than simply maladjustment. Explanations for the findings are explored, including the temporary nature of many appearance changes and the life-threatening nature of cancer.