Having treatment for your visible difference

We explore the pros and cons of treatments that might be available and offer advice on how to make a decision.

There might be things you can have to help your condition, mark or scar. This is called “treatment”. There can be upsides and downsides to having treatment and you might need to make a decision, with help from your family and doctors.

On this page, we look at the different kinds of treatments available and the pros and cons of having treatment. We also share some tips on how to make a decision about whether to have treatment.

What does “treatment” mean?

We use the word “treatment” to refer to anything that you might need to have to help your condition, mark or scar. This could mean:

  • Having an operation.
  • Doing physiotherapy.
  • Taking tablets.
  • Using creams.

The treatment you need depends on what you have. Having any treatment can feel difficult as it can sometimes stop you doing things you want to do or mean you have to go to the hospital more than usual.

The pros and cons of having treatment

Like lots of things, there are two sides to having treatment. For some people, treatment can make a big difference to their quality of life. Here are some positive things people have said about their treatment:

  • “I’ve got burns on my face and body and I’ve had lots of operations. I still have lots to come. I won’t ever look like I did before the accident, but I still think it’s worth it.”
  • “I had a cleft lip when I was born. It’s been repaired, but I have a scar above my lip and my nose is a bit flat. I will have some ‘touch-up’ surgery later, though you’ll always be able to tell I’ve had a cleft.”

Sometimes, people have treatment which doesn’t work as well as they’d hoped. This can make them disappointed, upset or even angry. Here are two examples:

  • “The operations are painful and it gets to me sometimes. And sometimes I feel like it’s not worth it. I talk to dad about it. He says it’s OK to feel upset. He’s good to talk to.”
  • “I get angry because I’m sick of having to use my cream. I have to put it on each day and it’s annoying.”

Treatment is not usually completely bad or completely good. Having treatment can come with downsides while being better overall than not having treatment. As with a lot of things, it’s complicated and you have to weigh up the pros and cons.

10 things you might not know about treatment

  1. Some treatments work best at a certain age.
  2. Some take years to complete.
  3. There isn’t a treatment for every problem.
  4. No treatment will work every time.
  5. More than one type of treatment may be needed.
  6. Treatment can often make a big difference.
  7. It can’t always change everything or make things how you might expect.
  8. Treatment might affect you in other ways.
  9. Certain treatments, like some tablets and creams, only work while you are taking them.
  10. Some treatments have a permanent effect on your body.

Deciding whether to have treatment

When thinking about having a new treatment, it is worth weighing everything up.

Here are some questions you could think about.

Try asking your family first. Later on, you might need to ask a GP, specialist or other people. If you like, your parents or carers may be able to ask for you. It might help you to write down the answers to these questions to help you remember and decide what extra information you might need.

  1. Have I had any treatments? If the answer is Yes, answer the questions below. If the answer is No, go to question 2:
    • What were the treatments?
    • What happened in the treatments?
    • What did the treatments change about me?
    • What did the treatments not change?
  2. Should I have a treatment (or more treatment)?
    • Is there a treatment suitable for me?
    • What is the name of this treatment?
    • What will happen?
    • Who will I see? Who will be doing the treatment?
    • How long will it take? How many times will I need to go? Will I miss school or other things?
    • Is now the right time to have the treatment?
    • What difference will the treatment make?
    • What will the treatment not change?
    • What other effects might there be, like scars or other changes? Will it affect other things like moving, talking, eating, sleeping, hearing or seeing?
    • Will I need to have follow-up appointments? If so, what will happen?
    • Is there anything else I can think of? How do I feel about it? What else do I need to know?
    • Do I want to have this treatment?

Remember – even if you say “yes” or “no” now, it’s OK to change your mind later.

Deciding whether to have treatment isn’t easy. But working through all the questions might help you to think about whether it’s the right thing for you. If it seems like a lot of questions, you don’t have to do them all at once. You can also talk to your parents or carers, family and friends about the questions.

Usually, you don’t need to choose right away and you will be able to spend time thinking about your decision.

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