Adolescents' and parents' experiences of managing the psychosocial impact of appearance change during cancer treatment

Heidi Williamson, Diana Harcourt, Emma Halliwell, Hannah Frith, Melissa Wallace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using combined qualitative data from multiple case study interviews and an online survey, this study explored the impact of appearance change on 22 adolescents receiving cancer treatment aged 13 to 18 years and six of their parents. Data were analyzed using template analysis. Appearance changes were a major concern. Adolescents typically struggled to adapt to new experiences and concerns related to this highly sensitive issue. Many felt anxious and self-conscious and were reluctant to reveal appearance changes in public. These feelings were compounded by the negative reactions of others (e.g., staring, teasing, and inappropriate questioning), which sometimes lead to avoidance of social activity and threats of noncompliance. Parents of these children felt ill-prepared to manage appearance-related anxieties. Adoles¬cents wanted support to develop the practical and social skills necessary to maintain a “normal” appearance and manage the negative responses of others. However, some adolescents showed resilience and, with support from friends and family, developed strategies to manage their altered appearance and its social consequences. These strategies are explored, which can inform interventions to support adolescents and parents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-175
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2010


  • Cancer
  • appearance
  • adolescent
  • parent
  • qualitative


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