Cultural Impacts of Breast Cancer

The physical appearance of a woman, particularly in reference to breasts, has an impact on females of all ages. Breast size can have an effect on a woman’s ability to feel attractive and may affect their well-being. Unfortunately, breast cancer surgery where the shape of the breast is altered or even the removal of breast(s), can drastically change the way a woman views herself.1

Much of the problem stems from television, magazine ads, movies, fashion and the media, who frequently focus on the outward appearance of women instead of inward qualities. The problem is further exacerbated at home where parents allow their children to watch these forms of media and in some cases, encourage their children to believe that what the media says is true. It is important for children to understand the true beauty of person lies within and that outward appearance will be dramatically affected by their inward beauty. Understanding this as a young person will carry through to adulthood and dramatically change the way a woman looks at herself, should she ever be faced with breast cancer.

Love the New You

The American Cancer Society reports that one of the major issues that women struggle with after breast cancer is the inability to look at their own bodies.2 One of the ways to conquer this is to take time in front of a mirror, looking at all of your physical features exclusive of your breasts. Become familiar with your new body and realize that it is the only one you will ever have. Remember that our bodies are constantly changing as we age. When you feel that you are ready, look at your scars as battle wounds. Not all of the people that are diagnosed with breast cancer survive. Your ability to see your scars is a gift, and although it may not always feel like it, they are a blessing.

Do Something Special for Yourself

Breast cancer survivors often forget to pamper themselves a bit. Consider a trip to day spa for a facial or a pedicure. Bring along a friend or two and make it a “girl’s day out.” Talk to your spouse about your feelings concerning your new appearance. Often, women find that their partners or spouses are more accepting of the changes in their physical appearance than they are. Take a trip with your spouse or another loved one if possible, to reward yourself and thank them for being there to support you.


1 Hamilton, R., & Zebrack, B. (2011). Dating and Disclosure for Cancer Survivors. Cancer and Sexual Health , 751-762.

2 American Cancer Society. (2004). A Breast Cancer Journey: Your Personal Guidebook. Atlanta: American Cancer Society.

3 Fobair, P., Stewart, S. L., Chang, S., et al. (2006). Body image and sexual problems in young women with breast cancer. Psycholo-Oncology , 579-594.

This article was originally published on July 27,2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/2/2015.