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Understanding cancer is your first step to managing it. If you haven’t already, read our guide to cancer, which will explain the types, symptoms and causes of the condition.
It’s important to realise that your cancer diagnosis is specific to you. Although websites can be helpful, information available on the internet may be generic and not specific to your type of cancer.
If you have any questions, be sure to raise them when you see your consultant or Clinical Nurse Specialist and ask them to explain anything you don’t understand.
Take a pen, paper or someone else with you to your appointments so they can ask questions or write down answers on your behalf.
Try to keep a record of your cancer treatment and any prescribed medications. Making a note of this information will help you to keep track of dates, times, and doses, which can be difficult to remember.
Research has shown that emotional support can make a big difference to the quality of life of someone with cancer. Support can be from friends, family or other sources such as support groups – many of which are run by cancer charities.
As well as giving people the opportunity to talk about their diagnosis, some methods of support can give people the opportunity to engage socially and provide guidance on how to cope – often at a time that is the loneliest and scariest of their lives. Every person affected by a cancer diagnosis will deal with things differently.
Talk to your employer about your diagnosis. Talking about any illness can be difficult, especially at work. You may worry about how your employer will react. You may also worry about telling your colleagues. Talking may feel daunting, but often it’s the best way to get help and support.
To get the support you need at work, it’s important to discuss your health with your line manager. If you haven’t already told your employer and colleagues about your cancer diagnosis, consider talking to them. If you have a Union representative you may wish to include them in your conversations.
Understand your benefits entitlement. You may be entitled to benefits to help alleviate financial burden and any loss of income that results from being unable to work.
Benefits you may be entitled to include:
Personal Independence Payment. This is available to people aged between 16 and 64 who experience mobility difficulties and are less able to look after themselves. You must have experienced such difficulties for at least three months and expect them to last for at least nine months.
Attendance Allowance. This benefit is available to people aged 65 or over who are less able to fend for themselves due to illness or a disability. You must have experienced difficulties for at least six months.
Special Rules. This is a fast-track process for benefit applications, available to people who are terminally ill and expected to live less than six months.
Using the fast-track process, your claim will be processed quickly, and you could receive the benefit applied for at the highest rate. The form will need to be completed by your doctor or a specialist nurse.
Take a look at our guide on Benefits and Grants to find out what financial help is available, and what you might be entitled to.Explore financial options. Managing your finances can be challenging when dealing with cancer. The pressure to maintain paying bills, loans, credits cards and a mortgage can be stressful. In some circumstances, these payments can be negotiated with the help of a financial advisor who will be able to go through a budget with you and talk to creditors on your behalf.
Getting as physically and mentally fit as possible can play a big role during and after treatment. As well as getting in the best shape for treatment, it can also help to speed up recovery.
Things you can do to improve your health and wellbeing include:
Quit smoking. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to reduce your cancer risk. You’ll improve your health and have more cash to spend on things you enjoy. If you’d like to become tobacco-free, you can get help and support to quit smoking.
Eat a healthy diet and keep active. What you eat could affect your risk of developing cancer. Making healthy food choices and being physically active can help to maintain your weight, help you feel great, and provides health benefits. Try to do at least 150 minutes of moderately intensive activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly. Activities of moderate intensity include brisk walking, cycling, household chores, gardening, swimming and dancing.
Eating well during cancer treatment helps to maintain your body weight, improve your strength and energy, decrease the risk of infection, and assist with healing and recovery. If you’re about to start treatment, speak to your GP about maintaining a balanced diet and your activity levels.
To find out more about how you can improve your diet and become more active, read our guide on Heart Health.
You can also use this NHS healthy weight calculator to check your Body Mass Index (BMI).
Stay safe in the sun. Being in the sun without adequate protection increases the risk of skin cancer.
Keep in mind the Five S's of Sun Safety to avoid sunburn:
- SLIP on a t-shirt
- SLOP on SPF 30+ broad-spectrum UVA sunscreen
- SLAP on a broad-brimmed hat
- SLIDE on quality sunglasses
- Get SHADE from the sun whenever possible
To find out how you can protect your skin from the sun, click here.
Cut down on alcohol. Cutting down on alcohol and staying within current recommendations of 14 units a week – the equivalent of six pints of beer or medium glasses of wine – is a good place to start.
Saving money, avoiding energy-sapping hangovers, and having a better night’s sleep are just some of the benefits you’ll gain by reducing your alcohol consumption. It’s important to avoid drinking if you have been advised not to drink during your cancer treatment; check with your nurse to avoid unwanted side effects.
If you need a little help, get some tips on how to do this.
Dealing with everyday life can be hard when you've been affected by cancer. Many people struggle to cope, which can cause unwelcome emotions. Regret, fear, and sadness can overwhelm us and take over our thoughts and feelings.
Making small changes to your diet and lifestyle can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing during and after cancer treatment.
If you would like to speak to someone for cancer support and advice, you can call the Tenovus Helpline for free on 0808 808 1010.