Living with and beyond cancer

Living with cancer

1 in 2 people in the UK will get cancer, according to Cancer Research UK. More people are surviving longer due to advances in our understanding of the disease and how to treat it.

Living with cancer can be difficult, both during and after treatment, but there is help and support available. You may find you don’t feel the full effect until after your treatment has finished.

On this page you will find information to help you manage the effects of cancer. Everyone’s needs will be different, depending on age and circumstances.

Most of the information on this page is general for all cancers. We have compiled a list of national charities dedicated to specific types of cancer. You may find these sites have more information that is relevant to you.

If you cannot find what you are looking for on this page please contact us and we will try to help.


Use the Cancer Care Map to find support near you

Need support now?

Macmillan support line 0808 808 0000 (8am-8pm, 7 days a week)

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Macmillan Cancer Support can help you make sense of it all, with ongoing tailored information and support you can trust, from day one. Helping you cope with the physical, financial and emotional impacts of cancer, including:

  • following a healthy diet during treatment
  • planning and managing your finances
  • understanding what benefits you may be entitled to
  • talking about your diagnosis with loved ones and colleagues
  • coping with any changes in your relationships.

Sign up with Macmillan Cancer Support to receive tailored email support after a cancer diagnosis

Cancer and your emotions

Emotional impact

How you cope with your diagnosis and treatment will be specific to you. You may expect to feel relief once your hospital-based treatment ends but this is not always the case and it can be a difficult and emotional time.

Following treatment, you may have time to reflect on the impact of your diagnosis. It is completely normal to have a mixture of emotions if you are living with or affected by cancer. There are a lot of support services available to help you through. It is important to remember you are not alone.

You may benefit from:

  • talking to friends and family
  • communicating with others in the same situation
  • talking therapies and counselling
  • moving forward courses
  • local support groups
  • health and wellbeing events.

For more information on dealing with your feelings and emotions:
Macmillan – Cancer and your emotions
Macmillan – Emotional help

Talking about cancer

It can be difficult to tell people you have cancer, however talking to your closest friends and family can make you feel more supported and reassured that the feelings you may be experiencing are normal.

Everyone you tell may have a different reaction and it is important to be prepared for this. Some will be keen to support you but this may not always be the case as some people may find the conversation difficult and uncomfortable. This may be through lack of experience, fearing your reaction or they may go into denial.

It can also help to talk to people who also have cancer as they may have a better understanding of what you are going through.


Online support – you can get support on the internet via online support groups, social networking sites, forums, chat rooms and blogs for people who are affected by cancer.
Macmillan Cancer Support – Online community


For information about counselling services
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

If you are feeling depressed or need to speak to someone immediately, please contact Samaritans 116 123

If you are struggling with how you are feeling emotionally, it is important to speak to your GP or your cancer care team, they will be able to provide you information on the treatments and support available to you.

Cancer support groups

Cancer support groups are a great way to meet people who understand what you might be feeling following your diagnosis of cancer. They provide a safe place for you to talk about what matters to you. You do not have to share if you do not feel comfortable, but a support group may help you to feel less isolated.

Some groups are specific to a certain type of cancer, while others are open to people affected by any type of cancer.


The Living Tree is a self-help support group for people who have experienced cancer and for their families and carers. The group is based in Bridport and is open to any cancer patients from West Dorset, East Devon and South Somerset.



There are a number of cancer support groups across Wessex. Ask your cancer support worker, or you can search for them on the Cancer Care Map

If you cannot find what you are looking for please contact us and we can try to help you.

For more information about cancer support groups:

Macmillan Cancer Support – Local support groups

Macmillan Telephone Buddies

Going through cancer can be an isolating experience, especially if you’re social distancing. The free Telephone Buddies service from Macmillan Cancer Support is here for you. It offers a weekly call from a volunteer buddy who is trained to understand what you’re going through. They’ll be a listening ear, ready to talk about how you’re feeling and your support needs during this difficult time.

They can also let you know about our other services, and all the ways Macmillan can help, so you don’t have to face cancer alone.

For more information about how to sign up online or by phone, please click on the link below:

Macmillan Cancer Support – Talk with a telephone buddy

Read the Telephone Buddies leaflet (PDF)


Visit our events page to find out what’s going on near you. There are online information sessions about living with cancer, as well as links to fundraising ideas.

Cancer and your body

Changes to your appearance and body image

Cancer and treatment for cancer can change how you feel about your body. You may have scarring, weight loss or physical discomfort which may lower your body confidence. Always talk to someone as this can help with coping. You could talk to a family member, friend or you could ask your clinical nurse specialist for help.

Macmillan Cancer Support – Changes to your appearance and body image

Relationships, sex and fertility

Treatment for cancer can affect your emotions and relationships which can then lead to issues with intimacy and sex.

Discussing your worries with your partner and being open about the effects of treatment on your sex life can be helpful to you both and may help you to cope better. There are also professionals who can help with becoming sexually active or starting a new relationship.

Often people find it embarrassing to talk about their sex lives but if you have any concerns or questions,  your cancer care team are used to talking openly about sexual matters.

Cancer Research UK – Sex, sexuality and cancer


Some treatments for certain types of cancer can affect your ability to have children in the future. It can be difficult to worry about your fertility while you are already coping with cancer. For more information your possible options, and the support available to you:

Macmillan Cancer Support – Fertility in men after treatment

Macmillan Cancer Support – Fertility in women after treatment

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Following your treatment, there are many things you can do that may help to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and prevent other health conditions:

• Stop smoking
• Reduce your alcohol intake
• Eat a healthy balanced diet
• Be more active

For more information about what you can do, and to find organisations who can help you, visit our keeping well page


Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies can be used alongside conventional cancer treatments. These are not the same as alternative therapies which are used instead of conventional treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Complementary therapies can give you comfort and help you feel more relaxed after treatment and diagnosis, but there is no evidence they will cure your cancer. If used, they should be used alongside treatment recommended by your consultant and you should discuss complementary therapies you are having with your doctor or specialist nurse.

  • activities that improve mindfulness
  • acupuncture
  • acupressure and shiatsu
  • aromatherapy
  • healing and energy therapies
  • herbal therapies
  • hypnotherapy
  • massage
  • meditation
  • mindfulness
  • reflexology
  • yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Gung.

You can discuss what complementary therapies are available to you with your cancer care team.

For more information visit our complementary therapies page.

Cancer and your finances

A cancer diagnosis can affect your income. You may be able to get help with NHS costs, grants, and certain benefits. There are people you can talk to, who can let you know what you are entitled to, including extra help.

If finances are a worry to you, please ask your cancer care team to refer you for more information to:
• Macmillan Cancer Support
• Citizen’s Advice Bureau
• Local Social Services.

You may be able to get help from other organisations or charities who give grants. You need to apply through a health or social care professional, such as a district nurse or a social worker.

Macmillan Cancer Support – Grants

For more information about money matters, including work, pensions, insurance, loans and mortgages:

Cancer Research UK – Money matters

Macmillan Cancer Support – Money, finance and insurance


Cancer and work

If you have had, or are living with, cancer, you are protected by law from unfair treatment. You may need advice to help you talk to your employer, or you may be worried about income if you are self-employed.

For more information on a range of work-related topics, including how a cancer diagnosis might affect your work, and advice on how to cope with work during cancer treatment:

Macmillan Cancer Support – Help with work

Cancer charities

Your experience of living with cancer is unique to you. The information and support you need depend on your own circumstances.

Here is a list of organisations that specialise in specific types of cancer. You may find that they provide information that is more relevant to you. Some can give you access to an online community of people who will understand more about what you are going through.

If you cannot find what you are looking for here, try using the Cancer Care Map to find support near you.

Anthony Nolan –

Blood Cancer UK –

Bowel Cancer UK –

Breast Cancer Care –

The Eve Appeal –  (womb, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal cancers)

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust –

Kidney Cancer UK –

Leukaemia Care –

Myeloma UK –

Orchid –  (testicular, prostate and penile cancers)

Pancreatic Cancer UK –

Prostate Cancer UK –

Roy Castle Lung Foundation –

Sarcoma UK –

Shine Cancer Support –

Target Ovarian Cancer –

Teenage Cancer Trust –

The Youth Cancer Trust –

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