Ask a woman going through breast cancer treatment about the worst part of facing that battle and she will likely respond, “It’s a stressful time."

Ask a woman going through breast cancer treatment about the worst part of facing that battle and she will likely respond, “It’s a stressful time."

For many women, the painful side effects of cancer treatment can stretch well beyond chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.  Many patients fight fatigue, sleep problems, along with sexual and emotional issues that disrupt daily routines and can be difficult to discuss even in very close relationships.

These women will experience a variety of emotions after receiving a diagnosis, going through treatment or worrying their cancer may return. Stress brings on a range of feelings from vulnerability and sadness to depression and anxiety.

Part of the emotional factor is simply how survivors feel about themselves physically from their initial diagnosis through post-treatment follow ups. For many, you are how you look. Chemotherapy changes the way your skin looks and its color. Hair is typically lost and not just from the head –eyebrows and eyelashes can be lost to the process.

The American Cancer Society, in collaboration with the Personal Care Products Council Foundation and the National Cosmetology Association, has been addressing this aspect of surviving cancer through a program called "Look Good... Feel Better" and it's coming to the Breast Center at St. Mary's Medical Center.

Look Good... Feel Better holds group workshops that teach beauty techniques to female cancer patients to help them combat the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment. Now in all 50 states, some 14,000 volunteers, many of them cosmetologists, spend a couple of hours with cancer patients sharing make-up and hair styling techniques. These volunteers are able to help women fight their disease in ways doctors and nurses cannot.

Many of the 50,000 women helped by this program report feeling more empowered when friends and family remarked how good they looked. It's all about being able to look into the mirror and be comfortable with what you’re seeing.

The workshops include instruction in skin care, make-up application and come with a complimentary make-up kit of donated products from major cosmetic manufacturers for use as learning tools in the class. Practical tips on wigs, head coverings and nail care are also covered.

Although participants do not receive wigs, many styles will be on display and can be ordered through the Breast Center at St. Mary's.

The program is also more than a make-up lesson. It's about gathering with other women who are going through the same ordeal and share the same fears and concerns to which only cancer survivors can truly relate.

Patients who are recently diagnosed through two years post-treatment are invited to participate. The three sessions require an RSVP at 816-655-5767 for the following dates:

Thursday, June 6, 4-6 p.m.
Thursday, September 5, 4-6 p.m.
Thursday, November 7, 4-6 p.m.


We also encourage our breast cancer patients to get involved with our support group and connect with other survivors that share your journey. A variety of speakers provide information on topics important to survivors. Spouses and family members are welcome and encouraged to attend this support group:

Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors Support Group
First Thursday of the month
Education Center at St. Mary’s


Doneda Swenson is a nationally recognized certified breast patient navigator (CBPN-IC) in both breast imaging and cancer care in the Breast Center at St. Mary's. She can be reached at 816-655-5767.