Cancer diagnosis and its treatments influence the body image of patients in addition to bodily functioning. This qualitative study explores cancer patients' experiences with their bodies following cancer diagnosis and its treatment. For this study, in-depth, semi-structured interviews with five female cancer patients were conducted in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The interviews were transcribed verbatim to include the insider’s perspective and then analysed using thematic analysis. The findings are divided into three major themes and eight sub-themes: the altered body (changed appearance, failing functional capabilities), emotional conflicts (feelings and emotions, loss of identity), and coping strategies (avoidance, clothing adjustments, social support, religious beliefs). Studies such as this one can help raise awareness among healthcare professionals about the heightened vulnerability of cancer patients, particularly women, to psychological distress arising from body image issues and beliefs. Additionally, insights from such research might help in the development of a framework for engaging in conversations about body image within oncology and palliative care teams, facilitating more effective patient care and support.


body image, cancer patients, coping, emotions, reflexivity, thematic analysis, qualitative research, women

Author Bio(s)

Mehboobun Nahar Milky is doctoral research scholar in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Institute of Science Education and Research, HBNI, Bhubaneswar, India. She is a qualitative researcher whose primary interest areas are in the domains of medical sociology, anthropology of the body and embodiment. Please direct correspondence to mehboobun.milky@niser.ac.in


I would like to express my gratitude to my late mother, whose support and motivation have been instrumental in my work, even though she is not here to witness its completion. I would like to thank my family, friends, and teachers for their encouragement, as well as to the editors and reviewers at The Qualitative Report for their invaluable feedback and guidance. I acknowledge the support provided to me by the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India, and my institute (National Institute of Science Education and Research, HBNI, Bhubaneswar). Lastly, I am greatly indebted to the participants who gave me their valuable time and shared their experiences for my study.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.




https://orcid.org/ 0000-0002-4653-0459



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