Q. My teenage son has had body-image issues since having cancer. His treatments caused him to gain weight and surgeries left him with scars. How can I help him deal with this?

A.

During adolescence, teens often focus on their bodies and how they compare to their peers. A teen whose physical appearance has been affected as a result of his cancer treatment can often experience complex and complicated feelings about himself.

It is important to acknowledge the impact the cancer has had on your son’s life. Not only did it make him sick, keep him out of school, and separate him from his friends, it also changed his body. In a word, the cancer diagnosis “sucked.” Helping your teen voice this and acknowledging that his situation was unfair can help to normalize the anger and frustration he most likely feels.

Group Loop is an online community designed specifically for teens and can connect him with other teens.

Your son may also need additional support outside of the family, especially if he is displaying behavior which is not typical for him. CancerCare’s oncology social workers can talk with your teen (or you) about his current situation and provide individual counseling and referrals to other professionals in your area who can help.

As a parent, you may also feel overwhelmed and concerned about your teen’s physical changes. Addressing your feelings and the impact your son’s diagnosis has had on you is also very important. We can provide and help you find local support for yourself as well.