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Program addresses body image concerns

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body image picture from AR.JPGBy Carol Bryce, MD Anderson Staff Writer

You can't always see cancer's side effects. Yet, changes in appearance or bodily functions sometimes lead to depression, anxiety and withdrawal.

MD Anderson's Body Image Therapy Program, directed by Michelle Fingeret, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Science, is here to help.

From its beginnings in 2008 with a staff of just Fingeret and a part-time research assistant, the program has grown to include a psychologist, two psychology fellows and five full-time researchers.

The program consists of research and clinical components, and its staff works closely with multidisciplinary health care teams.

"We even have biomedical engineers because we look at body image from multiple perspectives, which include using three-dimensional modeling and visualization technologies," Fingeret explains.

Most patients seen by Fingeret's team have either head and neck cancer or breast cancer, since those two groups are known to experience considerable difficulties adjusting to body-image changes that result from cancer and its treatment. They can be referred to the program by any member of their health care team. Or they can refer themselves.

"That's very important," Fingeret says. "Some patients don't feel comfortable talking to their physicians about body-image concerns. We want to do all we can to reduce barriers to patients accessing our services."

Read about this topic and much more in MD Anderson's 2011-2012 Annual Report.

Resources

Body Image Issues for Cancer Patients (podcast)

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