Getting help and support

You do not have to cope with worries and fears on your own. If you need more information or support to understand what is happening, there are people and places who can help with this. You might want:

Talk to your GP, or your specialist doctor or nurse at the hospital, for information about what is available in your area. You can also talk to one of our cancer support specialists on the Macmillan Support Line. Call 0808 808 00 00 or chat to them online.

Try to get the most out of appointments with your healthcare team. Think about and write down any questions you want to ask before you see them. Your team will do their best to answer your questions. You can take notes during your appointment, so you do not forget what was discussed.

Help from family and friends

You may want to talk about your situation with someone close to you such as family, friends, a partner, neighbours or colleagues. Try to choose people you trust and can talk openly with.

Make a list of things you need or would like people to help with. These might include housework, gardening, looking after a pet or going to appointments with you. It can be hard to ask for help. But the people close to you may be happy to have specific things they can do. Accepting any offers of help can reduce stress and may make you feel more in control.

Help with pets

Looking after a pet can sometimes become a worry because of cancer and its treatment. You may be worried if you:

  • are struggling to look after your pet or are no longer able to look after them
  • have to go into hospital for a time.

You may want to plan to make sure your pet is looked after.

Friends, family or neighbours may be able to help. There are also some organisations that offer services such as dog-walking or pet-sitting.

If you need to be away from home for a while, some organisations may be able to foster your pet.

We have more information on pet care.

Looking after yourself

Eating well and keeping active are positive choices that can help you feel better and more in control.

A healthy, balanced diet may help you maintain or regain strength. If your appetite is poor, ask your GP, cancer doctor or nurse if they can refer you to a dietitian. They can suggest what might help to build up your diet. We also have more information that may help if you have symptoms or side effects that are making eating difficult.

Keeping active can improve symptoms such as tiredness (fatigue), poor appetite, constipation and weak muscles. It can also help reduce stress and help you sleep better.

Physical activity is safe if you have advanced cancer. You should start slowly and gradually build up the amount that you do. Ask your GP, cancer doctor or nurse for advice before you start any type of exercise. You may need to avoid some types of physical activity. For example, if the cancer is in the bones or you have bone thinning, you should usually avoid high-impact activities. These include running, football or tennis.


Remember to take any medications exactly as your doctor, nurse or pharmacist has explained. These might be:

  • treatments for the cancer
  • medicines to help prevent or reduce symptoms or side effects.

Keep an up-to-date list of your medicines at home. Take it with you to appointments and if you go to stay somewhere. Tell any family, friends, or carers where the list is. If you become unwell, they can tell health professionals what medications you are taking.

Complementary therapies

Some people find that complementary therapies help them cope with the stress of cancer and its treatments. Many therapies are relaxing and may improve your mood. Some may help you cope with cancer symptoms or treatment side effects. Some types, such as relaxation and visualisation, can be done at home using CDs or podcasts. Getting this type of support can help you feel more in control. It can be a positive way of looking after yourself.

We have more information on complementary therapies.


Mindfulness is about learning to notice what is happening within and around you. It helps you learn to focus on the present. It encourages you to become aware of your thoughts and feelings, without making judgements about them. This can mean you spend less time worrying about the future.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a specific technique that may be helpful. It uses meditation, yoga and the breathing techniques of mindfulness. It also uses some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques to help you change unhelpful thought patterns. CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.

Be Mindful is an online MBCT course which is approved by the NHS. Visit to find out more.

If you live alone

Living on your own can add extra stresses. You may value your independence, but being ill may make you feel lonely and frightened.

People who care about you will want to help in any way they can. It is ok to ask for and accept their help.

Some people may be happy to help in practical ways, such as shopping or helping with your garden. You could make a list of practical things that would make your life easier. If people offer to help but are not sure what to do, they can choose to do something from your list.

Other people may be able to talk with and listen to you. This could help you to share your worries and fears.

Marie Curie and Age UK have free helper services available in parts of the UK. Some hospices may also offer this. Someone can visit you to have a chat over a cup of tea, help you get to an appointment or run an errand. There may be help and support available from health, social care and voluntary organisations. Your GP, social worker, local cancer information centre or district or community nurse can help you with this.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our advanced cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    Health Improvement Scotland/ NHS Scotland. Scottish Palliative Care Guidelines. Available from [accessed Nov 2021].

    NICE. End of life care for adults: service delivery. NICE guideline NG142 [Internet]. 2019. Available from [accessed Nov 2021].

    NICE. Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer. Cancer service guideline CSG4 [Internet]. 2004. Available from [accessed Nov 2021].

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Viv Lucas, Consultant in Palliative Medicine.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 October 2022
Next review: 01 October 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.