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National Survey Reveals the Life-changing Impact of Cancer Among Women

The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 1,334,100 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2003 alone and since 1990, about 16 million new cancer cases have been diagnosed.  Astonishingly, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States - exceeded only by heart disease.  Until there is a cure for cancer, members of the oncology community and those affected by the disease will continue to search for new, innovative ways to combat it, minimize its symptoms and ease the side effects associated with cancer and its treatment.

A recent, national survey of 267 female cancer patients, commissioned by the cancer support program Look Good...Feel Better® (LGFB) and conducted by Harris Interactive, found that cancer and its treatment are life-changing experiences that significantly affect all aspects of a woman's life - including her physical, emotional and social well-being. The survey, A Look Good...Feel Better Survey: Treatment and Its Impact on Cancer Survivors' Quality of Life, evaluated the impact appearance-related side effects associated with cancer and its treatment, such as hair loss and skin discoloration, have on a woman's personal relationships, career and overall quality of life.  In addition, this survey examined the influential role cancer support programs, like LGFB, can play in improving quality of life among women with cancer. 

A surprising 83 percent of women who experience changes in appearance associated with cancer treatment say that their overall quality of life was impacted because of such changes as hair loss and skin discoloration.  More than half (55 percent) of these women fear their lives will never return to normal.  In addition, the survey showed that 86 percent of women say that looking good helps them feel better, and seven in ten women feel that keeping up their appearance gives them more confidence to cope with cancer.

LGFB is a one-of-a-kind national, cancer support program that helps women address the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.  Through the dedication of volunteer cosmetologists, who teach women skincare and hair techniques to overcome the appearance changes associated with cancer treatment, LGFB has enhanced the lives of more than 350,000 women since its inception in 1989.  LGFB believes that if a woman feels better about how she looks, her improved self-esteem will help her approach her disease and treatment with renewed strength and confidence.

Additional survey results include the following.

Appearance-related Issues:

  • 78 percent of women interviewed say they have experienced changes in their appearance due to cancer treatment
  • 66 percent feel that their quality of life in the area of their appearance was negatively impacted by their cancer treatment experience, and few women (10 percent) give high ratings to their quality of life during treatment in the area of appearance

Cancer and the Workplace:

  • 59 percent of women who worked during treatment say that, when at work, it was important to look as they did before treatment
  • 38 percent of women feel that their profession was negatively impacted by their cancer treatment experience


  • 73 percent of women say that their relationship with a spouse or significant other was impacted by their treatment experience
  • Additionally, women say that their relationships with friends (80 percent), parents (69 percent), siblings (64 percent) and children (59 percent) were also affected
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of women feel that people treat them differently as a result of their cancer treatment - a statistic that is especially true among the women who have experienced significant changes in their appearance; of these women, 72 percent have noticed different treatment from others

Overall Quality of Life:

  • 77 percent of women feel that physicians should recommend support programs to help enhance patients' quality of life
  • Three out of four women say that dealing with cancer has caused their stress level to increase

LGFB is offered nationwide through a partnership with the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association Foundation, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the National Cosmetology Association.  This free program is available in Spanish, Luzca Bien...Siéntase Mejor®, available to teens with cancer through the in-hospital Look Good...Feel Better for Teens® program and through an interactive teen Web site, www.2bMe.org

For more information, please call 1-800-395-LOOK or visit the LGFB Web site at www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org.  Information about other cancer support programs is available through the ACS at 1-800-ACS-2345.  

For the complete article on this survey, click here.

Created: 2/7/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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