Teens with cancer need support with appearance issues

Issue date: 13 May 2010


CAR Logo Findings presented at 4th Appearance Matters conference

22-23 June 2010 Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, Bristol, UK

A researcher from the world renowned Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) at the University of the West of England has investigated what it is like for young people to undergo cancer treatment that impacts on the way they look. Researcher Heidi Williamson will present findings from the study at the forthcoming CAR Appearance Matter Conference taking place in Bristol, in June.

UWE's 4th Appearance Matters conference

Heidi explains, “Treatment for cancer can result in temporary or permanent changes to patients' appearance, including hair loss, weight changes, skin complaints and scarring. These changes present particular challenges for adolescents because this is a time when young people are acutely aware of their body, and physical appearance contributes more than any other factor to levels of self-esteem.

“Until now, some research has suggested that altered appearance during cancer treatment can be problematic but there has been very little in-depth exploration of how adolescents and their parents respond to or cope with these challenges, nor ways in which support is provided. This study provided a detailed insight into adolescent patients' and their families' experiences of managing an altered appearance as a result of cancer treatment.

“Many adolescents described feeling anxious and self-conscious about how they looked and reported staring and teasing which often led to low self-confidence, avoidance of social activities and, in some cases, not wanting to continue with treatment. Some of them used strategies such as concealment, warning friends and using humour in order to manage their altered appearance and its social consequences. Parents felt poorly prepared to manage appearance-related anxieties. Adolescents wanted advice and support to maintain a 'normal' appearance and skills to manage negative social responses.”

Heidi Williamson's research findings are now informing the development of ways of providing support for young people with appearance-related concerns during cancer treatment.

For more information about the Appearance Matters conference and to register online go to http://www.uwe.ac.uk/events/appearancematters/registration.shtml or
e-mail CAR@uwe.ac.uk

-ENDS-

Editors notes:

22-23 June 2010 Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, Bristol, UK

The 4th Appearance Matters conference will be held in Bristol, UK on 22-23 June 2010 at the Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, University of Bristol. Appearance Matters is organised by the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England.

Appearance Matters 4 is a two day international conference highlighting current research and good practice around appearance-related issues including visible difference, ethics, information provision, education, the media, resilience, identity, weight, provision of care, psychosocial interventions and areas for further research.

Conference keynotes speakers include Professor Alex Clarke, Royal Free Hospital London, and Professor Lina Ricciardelli, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.
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