Cancer and domestic abuse

Content warning: domestic abuse

The page contains information on domestic abuse, including personal stories. There are also references to other types of abuse.

If you are in an emergency, please call 999 or use 999BSL and ask for the police.

How to hide your online searches

If you are worried someone might check which webpages you have visited, the Women's Aid website tells you how to hide your online searches online.

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is a term used to describe any kind of abuse that happens between partners or family members aged 16 and above. It can be physical or non-physical. It could include threatening, controlling or coercive behaviour. It can also be economic, psychological, emotional or other types of abuse.

Children who see, hear or experience the effects of abuse are also victims.

Domestic abuse can be a single incident, but usually it is a pattern of ongoing behaviours. It can affect anyone, whatever their age, gender, sexual orientation, salary, education level, ethnicity or faith.

No one should have to live with domestic abuse. Help is available.

The website has information about domestic abuse and how to get help. This includes information in other forms (translation, British Sign Language and easy read):

How domestic abuse might affect you

It can often be difficult to recognise that what is happening to you is domestic abuse. Sometimes a cancer diagnosis can trigger an abusive person into worse behaviours or new forms of abuse.

If you are living with cancer

Does your partner, family member, or carer:

  • stop you from getting enough rest?
  • make you feel guilty for asking for support?
  • prevent you from speaking to healthcare professionals on your own?
  • embarrass you in front of healthcare professionals or other people?
  • make you feel guilty for asking for support?
  • keep you from getting support from other people?
  • act like nothing has changed since your cancer diagnosis?
  • criticise the way you look after treatment or surgery?
  • control your money or any grants or benefits you have received?
  • try to get you to change legal or financial documents when you don't want to?

If you are caring for someone with cancer

Some carers experience domestic abuse from a partner or family member they are caring for. Domestic abuse is never okay, whatever the other person may be dealing with.

It can be difficult to recognise what you are experiencing is domestic abuse, but here are some things to consider.

Does the person you are caring for:

  • demand that you do everything for them?
  • blame you for their illness?
  • shame or criticise you about your caregiving?
  • embarrass you in front of healthcare professionals or others?
  • pressure you into forgiving their behaviour?
  • make you feel guilty so that you continue or re-establish a relationship with them?
  • control your money or any caregiver grants or benefits you have received?
A green speech bubble.

Olive's story

Stories from people living with cancer and who experienced abuse

People living with cancer who have experienced domestic abuse have shared their stories with us. To protect anonymity, we have changed names and details and mixed people’s accounts. These stories have been shared with Macmillan with permission from Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse.

Ania's story

Etta's story

Maya's story

Mo's story

Where to go for help

If you are in an emergency, please call 999 or use 999BSL and ask for the police. Find out how to call the police when you can't speak.

Some people who experience domestic abuse can feel isolated and like they have no one to speak to for support. Below we have included information about how Macmillan and other organisations can help.

Support from Macmillan over the phone and online

You can call the Macmillan Support Line for free on 0808 808 00 00 (open everyday from 8am-8pm). You can also chat to a specialist online (open everyday from 8am-8pm).

Our Support Line and Chat services are both confidential. Our teams are trained to recognise domestic abuse. We are a safe place to talk.

Helplines and online support options

Below are some organisations that you can speak to about domestic abuse. Many have a free phoneline you can call. Or you may be able to speak to someone online.

If you are in immediate danger, phone 999.

National helplines Contact information
Northern Ireland
  • Victim Support

    Victim Support helps victims of crime and traumatic incidents in England and Wales. They provide information and support for people who have experienced domestic abuse.

    Ways you can get in touch:

    You can also contact Victim Support through Relay UK and with British Sign Language. To find out more, visit the Victim Support Support Line page.

  • Women's Aid

    Women's Aid is a national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. They offer information and support, including ways to cover your tracks online.

    • Talk online via their live chat (available Monday to Friday from 8am-6pm and Saturday to Sunday from 10am-6pm)
    • Email Women's Aid (will respond within 5 working days)
    • Join the Survivors' Forum to speak to other women who have been affected by domestic abuse.

    The Live Chat service is completely anonymous unless you wish to share your personal data. To find out more about the chat service visit Women's Aid Live Chat FAQs page.

    Women's Aid also provide a list of organisations who can help Black and ethnic minority women experiencing domestic abuse.

  • Respect Men's Advice Line

    Respect Men's Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them.

    Ways you can get in touch:

    Any data taken when you get in touch with Respect Men's Advice Line is kept in line with with their privacy policy. Visit the Respect Men's Advice Line FAQ page to find out more.

  • Mankind Initiative

    The Mankind Initiative offers information and support to men who are victims of domestic abuse.

    Their helpline is available on 01823 334244 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm).

    The organisation also provides a directory of services about domestic abuse support services for male victims.

  • SurvivorsUK

    SurvivorsUK provides support for men, transmen and non-binary people who have been victims of rape or sexual abuse.

    Ways to get in touch:

    Both services are available Monday to Sunday from 12pm-8pm.

    SurvivorsUK offer a confidential service. Only in certain cases do they consider contacting anyone else about what you say. To find out more, visit their website.

  • Safer Wales

    Safer Wales provides support to heterosexual, gay, bisexual and trans men who are experiencing domestic abuse from a partner.

    Ways to get in touch:

    • Call the Dyn Wales Helpline on 0808 801 0321 (available Monday to Friday 9am-5pm)
    • Email
  • Galop: support for LGBT+ people who have experienced abuse or violence

    Galop is the UK's LGBT+ anti-abuse charity.

    Ways you can get in touch:

    • Call their helpline on 0800 999 528 (available Monday to Thursday from 10am-8.30pm and Friday 10am-4.30pm)
    • Email
    • Use their chatbot (click the Chat Now button on the bottom right corner). It is available 24/7 and can provide access information and resources.

    The helpline is a confidential service. Galop will not share what you tell them with anyone else unless they think that something might seriously endanger you or someone else.

    For more information visit Galop's webpage on how to contact the organisation.

  • LGBT Foundation

    The LGBT Foundation have a domestic abuse support service for individuals who are currently at risk of or who have previously experienced domestic abuse.

  • Surviving Economic Abuse

    Surviving Economic Abuse provides support for if your current or former partner has interfered with your money or financial situation.

    Ways you can get in touch:

  • Karma Nirvana for help with honour based abuse

    Karma Nirvana is a specialist charity for victims and survivors of honour based abuse in the UK.

    You can call their helpline for free on 0800 5999 247 (available Monday to Friday from 9am-5pm).

    The helpline is confidential. Karma Nirvana will not share your information with anyone, other than in exceptional circumstances. Visit the Karma Nirvana's helpline information page to find out more.

  • SignHealth's Domestic Abuse Service

    SignHealth is a UK charity that is working to improve the health and wellbeing of Deaf people. Their Domestic Abuse Service provides specialist support for Deaf people experiencing domestic abuse.

    Ways to get in touch:

    The Domestic Abuse Service also has a video library with more information about the support they can provide.

  • Respect: help for domestic abuse perpetrators

    Respect offer help for perpetrators or people who fear they may become perpetrators of domestic abuse.

    Ways you can get in touch:

    The helpline is confidential and anonymous. For more information, visit the Respect's What to Expect webpage.

Other sources of support

  • Ask for ANI codeword

    Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) is a codeword scheme that provides people experiencing domestic abuse a safe way to access immediate support.

    You can use this service a participating local pharmacies or jobcentres. Use the postcode checker to find your local participating pharmacy or jobcentre.

  • Find a Safe Space

    Safe Spaces are consultation rooms for people experiencing domestic abuse. They are provided by participating organisations in your local area.

    Use the postcode checker to find your local Safe Space.

How to cover your tracks online and secure your digital devices

If you're worried someone might see you have visited this page, the Women's Aid website tells you how to cover your tracks online.

Refuge also has information on how to secure your tech including step-by-step guides.

Advice for healthcare professionals who believe a patient is experiencing domestic abuse

Our Cancer and domestic abuse: toolkit for professionals is designed to help healthcare professionals working with people affected by cancer. It can help you to identify and respond to signs of domestic abuse affecting patients and carers.

If you are worried about someone who may be experiencing abuse you may want to contact the safeguarding team at your place of work. Each organisation will have guidance about raising a concern.

If you are a healthcare professional with personal experience of domestic abuse, or think you may be experiencing it, you are not alone. There are people ready to support you. Your workplace may have a staff domestic abuse policy with guidance and support available for you.

About our information


  • References

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

    Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse. Setting the scene: professional + victim-survivor consultation findings, April 2022. [accessed 2023]

  • Reviewers

    This content was created in collaboration with Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse, University of Bristol, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, and The Royal Marsden.

    It has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development and Safeguarding Teams. It has been signed off by the Domestic Violence and Abuse Health Research Group at the University of Bristol.

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.

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Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

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