Understanding Sunken Cheeks: The Impact of Cancer on Facial Appearance

Connection between Sunken Cheeks and Cancer

Sunken cheeks, also known as facial wasting, can be a distressing physical change experienced by individuals battling cancer.

While sunken cheeks alone do not point to a specific type of cancer, understanding the factors behind this phenomenon is crucial.

In this article, we will explore the connection between cancer and sunken cheeks, shedding light on the cancer types, treatments, and their impact on facial appearance.

What are Sunken Cheeks?

How Sunken Cheeks look like

Sunken cheeks, characterized by a lack of tissue between the zygoma (cheekbone) and mandible (lower jawbone), can affect both men and women.

While aging is commonly associated with this condition due to facial fat loss, there are other contributing factors worth considering. 

Factors Contributing Sunken Cheeks

  1. Aging: The natural aging process often leads to fat loss on cheeks as the face gradually loses collagen. This depletion of facial volume can result in a hollowed appearance. Aging-related sunken cheeks affect both men and women, and understanding this factor is essential when seeking effective remedies.

  2. Illness: Certain illnesses can contribute to the development of sunken cheeks. Chronic diseases or conditions that cause significant weight loss or muscle wasting may lead to a decrease in facial volume. It is important to address and manage any underlying health issues to help alleviate this concern.

  3. Diet: An imbalanced or inadequate diet lacking essential nutrients can impact the overall health and appearance of the face, including the cheeks. Insufficient intake of vital nutrients, such as proteins, healthy fats, and vitamins, can contribute to facial volume loss. Adopting a well-rounded and nutritious diet can aid in maintaining facial fullness.

  4. Personal Habits: Certain personal habits can play a role in the development of sunken cheeks. Factors such as excessive smoking, alcohol consumption, and poor oral hygiene can affect oral and facial health, potentially leading to tissue loss and a sunken appearance. Taking steps to modify these habits can positively impact facial aesthetics.

  5. Environmental Factors: External influences in our environment can also contribute to sunken cheeks. Prolonged exposure to harsh weather conditions, pollution, and harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can accelerate skin aging and collagen breakdown. Protecting the skin from these environmental factors through the use of appropriate skincare and sun protection measures can help maintain facial volume.

Connection Between Different Kinds of Cancer And Sunken Cheeks

  1. Head and Neck Cancer: One of the cancer types that can contribute to sunken cheeks is head and neck cancer. Tumors in the oral cavity, throat, or salivary glands can affect the facial structure, leading to a hollowed-out appearance. Individuals diagnosed with head and neck cancer should be aware of the potential changes in their facial features.

  2. Advanced Stage Cancers: As cancer progresses and reaches advanced stages, sunken cheeks may develop due to factors such as weight loss and muscle wasting. When cancer metastasizes, spreading to other parts of the body, it can impact the overall health and appearance of the individual. Seeking medical attention and proper management become essential in these cases.

  3. Cancer Treatments: Some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can cause side effects that contribute to facial wasting. These treatments can result in muscle and fat loss, affecting the appearance of the cheeks. It is important for cancer patients to be aware of potential cosmetic changes during their treatment journey.

  4. HIV/AIDS-Related Cancers: Individuals living with HIV/AIDS are at an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers, including Kaposi’s sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These cancers can affect various parts of the body, including the face, leading to changes in facial appearance, including sunken cheeks.

Medical Treatments to Restore Volume to Sunken Cheeks

If you are looking to enhance the fullness of your cheeks and restore a more youthful appearance, medical treatments can offer effective solutions.

A trained healthcare provider or plastic surgeon can employ various techniques to address sunken cheeks. Understanding these techniques will help you make informed decisions about the most suitable treatment for your desired outcome.

  1. Injectable Facial Fillers

Filler Treatment for Sunken Cheeks

One commonly used approach to treat sunken cheeks is the use of injectable facial fillers. These fillers are typically composed of substances like Hyaluronic acid (HA) or Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA).

The procedure involves injecting the filler into specific areas of the cheeks to restore lost volume and create a fuller appearance. Depending on the type of filler used, results can last anywhere from several months to several years. It is important to consult with a trained healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate filler and treatment plan for your needs.

  1. Fat Transfer through Liposuction

Fat Transfer Surgery

Another method to restore volume to sunken cheeks is through fat transfer, also known as autologous fat grafting. This technique involves removing excess fat from another area of your body, such as the abdomen or thighs, via liposuction.

The harvested fat is then carefully processed and injected into the cheeks to enhance facial volume. Fat transfer offers a natural and long-lasting solution, as the transferred fat becomes a permanent part of your own tissue.

Consultation with a plastic surgeon experienced in fat transfer procedures is essential to assess candidacy and discuss potential risks and benefits.


While sunken cheeks can be a distressing physical change for individuals affected by cancer, it is important to remember that it is not limited to a single type of cancer.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sunken cheeks or other concerning symptoms, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.

By raising awareness about the impact of cancer on facial appearance, we hope to provide support and understanding to individuals going through this challenging journey.

Remember, early detection, prompt treatment, and holistic care play significant roles in managing cancer-related changes and enhancing overall well-being.

Take Care of Yourself!


Reviewed By : Dr. Aviral Vatsa

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