Patients with serious illnesses believe cosmetic procedures will help them feel more comfortable in social settings, according to a new study published by Northwestern University.

Patients dealing with serious illnesses may want cosmetic procedures to make them look healthier, reports a small new Northwestern Medicine study.

The patients believe cosmetic surgery may help them feel better in social situations with their friends, family, or when they’re at work.

“Patients dealing with serious illnesses have visible signs of their health problems, which make them feel unhappy about themselves,” said senior author Murad Alam, MD, vice chair of dermatology and chief of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Cosmetic procedures that improve appearance make these patients feel better and more confident during a time when they are already going through so much.”

The paper, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, is the first to ask sick patients why they are undergoing cosmetic procedures.

The study reports that patients diagnosed with major medical illnesses seek cosmetic procedures to maintain their physical and mental well-being and become comfortable in social settings. Patients believe cosmetic procedures may help their reintegration into society and reinvigorate their relationships without standing out or looking sick.

The study included patients who had experienced a stroke, advanced melanoma, prostate cancer, advanced cervical cancer, advanced thyroid cancer, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, among other illnesses.

Most participants reported seeking cosmetic treatments directly because of their major medical illness (75%) or treatment (66%). Participants’ motivations included maintaining mental well-being, enhancing social acceptance, counteracting aging, alleviating the impact on work success, and responding to suggestions provided by friends, family, and doctors.

Participants’ cosmetic procedures ranged from noninvasive treatments, such as neurotoxin and filler injections, lasers, chemical peels, radiofrequency devices, dermabrasion, and microneedling, to invasive procedures such as facelifts, liposuction, and eyelid lifts.

Choosing a cosmetic procedure to mitigate the visible signs of disease is a well-thought-out and deliberate choice made by many patients with major medical illnesses, Alam said.

Improved physician-patient communication and shared decision-making may help sick patients who are considering cosmetic procedures arrive at solutions that best meet their needs while ensuring safety.

“These findings may help improve conversations between physicians and patients who are interested in getting cosmetic procedures so that they have information on procedures that are most safe and helpful for them,” said Alam.

Photo 29801827 © Hongqi Zhang (aka Michael Zhang) |