Look Good When Dealing With Cancer

by Brian English

As if cancer isn’t enough to deal with, the diagnosis and treatment of this disease comes with an insidious side effect: it ruins your whole look.

This may sound glib, but both men and women, battling cancer impacts what you wear – and not in a positive way. This goes way beyond the baseball hats and scarves that many patients don after chemo-induced hair loss.

Look Good When Dealing With Cancer

During treatment, you can change shape in many ways. You could lose weight. You could get bloated. Your old clothes may not fit you and the new clothes that will fit you, you may not like at all. At the same time, not getting dressed and giving in to just putting on ill-fitting clothes can make you feel even more out of sorts, which can be bad for morale.


Cancer shouldn’t be allowed to negatively impact your self respect. Looking good is a big part of maintaining that critical element of normalcy in your life. Don’t abandon your looks to the disease. If you’re a woman that enjoyed wearing makeup, then don’t stop wearing it.

There’s even a volunteer program that’s dedicated to this idea. “Look Good Feel Better” (LookGoodFeelBetter.com) is an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life and self esteem of people undergoing cancer treatments. The nationwide program offers complimentary lessons on beauty techniques to groups and individuals (in person and online) to help cancer patients face their diagnosis with greater confidence.

Look Good Feel Better

What to Wear?

While makeup assistance is sure to be appreciated, clothes can cause the biggest issue. WhatNexter mom25 writes about the all-too-common issue of extreme weight loss during treatment. “I’ve already dropped more than 20% of my normal weight (from 121 lbs to just 94 lbs) … nothing I own fits anymore.”

Post Mastectomy Clothing

There is one small upside to this problem: it means you have to go shopping. BoiseB from the forums recommends a trip to the thrift store to get a minimal basic wardrobe with an emphasis on comfort.

And while many women would not believe it, even male cancer patients can benefit from a shopping spree (contrary to popular belief, not all of us are born slobs). WhatNexter Hussy found that after diagnosis, her husband had a “knack for finding all the 90% off” items at clothes. As a result, she writes, “he looks and feels better in clothes that fit.”

Keep It Practical

It’s important to find clothes that not only look good, but that are practical. This can mean certain tweaks to your usual style that you may not have considered. For example, clothes with buttons are easier to put on and take off than pullover tops. They also can provide easier access to doctors who need to administer IVs or tend to chemo ports. However, since chemo treatments can sometimes cause loss of feeling in the finger tips, you might want to opt for clothes with large buttons.

Tops with larger neck openings – like boat necks – also provide convenient access to ports. And short sleeves allow for easier blood drawing.

Mahina (and other WhatNexters) advise that black yoga pants are the essential wardrobe item. “Basic black yoga pants and athletic wear can go a long way because of the stretch,” she writes. Pants with waste bands also work well, provided that they don’t put too much pressure on your middle and exacerbate nausea.


One of today’s stranger fashion trends is young women wearing pajamas outside of the house. This means that cancer patients have an opportunity not only to dress comfortably, but still be up with the latest trend of the moment. Laredosam1 writes that she decided that “this is the best time to wear what I am comfortable in and say, ‘hey, I have cancer, so I have an excuse to go to the corner store in pjs and slippers and a coat if I feel like it.”


It’s important to wear what makes you happy. When cancer arrives, the usual fashion rules go out the window. But when you can manage to dress well and stay comfortable in spite of the disease, those occasional looks in the mirror will give you a much needed boost and put the spring back in your step.

Tell us how you have kept your style and beauty during your treatments. What tips can you offer?

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