Changes in your appearance after eye cancer | Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Changes in your appearance after eye cancer

Men and women discussing eye cancer

This page tells you about changes to your appearance after surgery for eye cancer. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Changes in your appearance

Surgery that involves the eye may change the way you look. But modern surgical techniques and reconstructive surgery means that you are less likely to have much scarring, even with very big operations. With time, many scars will fade and be far less visible. So even though you are aware of them, other people may not notice. If you are not happy with how you look, you may be able to have further surgery to help correct this. Talk to your surgeon or specialist nurse about any worries you have. 

Using an artificial eye

If you have had your eye removed this means adjusting to having an artificial eye. Even if other people don’t notice it, you are still aware that you look different. The change in appearance can be hard to get used to.

How surgery may affect your self esteem

It can be difficult to accept sudden changes to your looks. It is not unusual for people who have had surgery to their face to feel very angry, confused and upset for some time afterwards. You may feel worried about how your friends and family see you. It’s completely normal to worry about these things. Remember that those people who are most important to you will not view you any differently as a person. They will want to support you as much as they can, so talk to them about how you are feeling. 

There are suggestions of things you can do that may help you cope with changes in your looks. There are also a number of organisations and support groups that help people cope with changes in their sight and the way they look.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the living with eye cancer section.

 

 

Types of change to your face

Surgery that involves the eye may change the way you look. But modern surgical techniques and reconstructive surgery means that you are less likely to have much scarring, even with very big operations. Unfortunately if you do have scarring it can be distressing. It can affect the way you feel about yourself and how you think others might see you.

Your surgeons will do all they can to make incisions on your face along the lines of any creases already there. With time, many scars will fade and be far less visible. So even though you are aware of them, other people may not notice.

If you have had your eye removed this means adjusting to having an artificial eye. Even if other people don’t notice it, you are still aware that you look different. The change in your appearance can be hard to get used to.

 

Your self esteem after surgery

How you look can be an important part of your feelings of self esteem. It can be difficult to accept sudden changes to your looks. It is not unusual for people who have had surgery to their face to feel very angry, confused and upset for some time afterwards. You may feel worried about how your friends and family see you. You may also worry about being physically attractive to your partner.

Going back to work, meeting new people and going for job interviews can all be more of a struggle if you are trying to cope with changes in your appearance. If you have children you may worry how their friends will see you and if that will affect your children.

It’s completely normal to worry about these things. Remember that those people who are most important to you will not view you any differently as a person. They will want to support you as much as they can, so let them know how you’re feeling. Sharing your feelings with the people close to you can make you feel less isolated and more able to cope with things.

 

Things that may help you cope

There are several things you can do that may help you cope with changes in your looks. They may not take away all the emotional pain but they might make things gradually become easier. Here are some suggestions

Talking to your surgeon

This is probably one of the most important things you can do. Even if you feel at the time that you don't want to know exactly what the surgeon will do, it really will help you deal with things later on. Ask your surgeon to be very honest with you about the surgery and how you will look afterwards.

Your eyes and face are likely to be very swollen and sore immediately after your surgery. But try to remember that this is temporary and not how you will look forever. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Your surgeon and specialist nurse will be aware of how worried you are about changes in your appearance and will be able to reassure you.

Talking to someone who has had a similar experience

Some people find it very helpful and reassuring to speak with someone else who has coped with surgery that changes the way they look. Your doctor or nurse may be able to put you in touch with someone who has had a similar operation to yours, particularly if you are having treatment at a specialist centre. Or the specialist organisations for eye disease or injury may be able to help you. Of course you may not want to talk to someone else, at least not straightaway, so don’t feel that you have to do this.

Looking at yourself in the mirror

Your first reaction after your surgery may be that you don’t want to look at yourself. This is a natural reaction. When you decide you do want to look is really up to you. It is usually better to wait until you have recovered a bit after the operation and feel ready. Your face might be swollen and a bit bruised. It’s best to have someone with you, such as your doctor or nurse, who can support you through this and answer your questions.

Many people feel very angry at first and wish that they had never had the operation. It might be hard to imagine at the time, but you will feel a bit better about things as time goes on and the swelling and bruising settles. Your doctors and nurses will be very aware of how you are feeling and will reassure you about healing. They can let you know where you can get help and support if you feel you need it.

It is important to give yourself some time to adjust to changes in your appearance. But there will come a time when you will need to go out again and meet people. This could mean going back to work or doing everyday things like shopping. This may feel very scary at first and you may be tempted to keep putting it off. But going out can help you to stay positive and stop you getting depressed. We have more information about depression.

Talking to people close to you

The best support you are likely to get is from your close family and friends. But don’t be surprised if they are not sure what to say to you at first. They will not want to make you feel anxious or to say anything that might upset you. It may be easier if you bring the subject up and let them know how you feel about things without them having to ask.

Some people may choose not to open up too much because they do not want to upset their friends and family. But you will be surprised how much it can help just to share your feelings. Rather than being upset, those close to you may feel privileged that you’ve chosen to confide in them. If you don’t talk to them, they may worry that you are bottling it all up.

If you are having problems with your intimate and sexual relationships because you feel that you are no longer attractive, try letting your partner know how you are feeling. There is more about this in the section about changes in your sex life.

Tips to help hide changes

You may decide to wear sunglasses sometimes to hide any changes to your eyes. It’s unlikely that surgery will affect your face and neck, apart from temporary swelling and bruising. But if you do have any scars from surgery or have had skin grafts that are a different colour, you can get make up to cover up the problem areas. It is called camouflage make up and you can get it on prescription from your GP. There are different colours for all skin tones. There are also organisations that teach you how to apply it, and can advise on the best products to buy. These include

Some head and neck clinical nurse specialists are also trained in applying this make up and will be able to give you a lesson or two.

You can also distract attention from scarring around the eyes by wearing glasses or sunglasses. Sometimes it is best not to draw attention to the affected area. Trying to do too much to hide scars or changes does not always help. Experiment and do what makes you feel the most comfortable.

Getting help and support

Not everyone feels comfortable asking for help and support from people they have not met, but many people find it very useful. There are a number of organisations and support groups that help people to cope with changes in their sight and the way they look. You can find these on the eye cancer organisations page

If you would like to talk to someone outside your own friends and family, look at the general cancer organisations page for people who can offer support. You can find details of counselling organisations in the counselling section.

Rate this page:
Submit rating

 

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 1 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 30 June 2015