Coping with cancer pain

People with cancer may have pain for a number of reasons. Different healthcare professionals can help you manage your pain in hospital or at home.

Cancer pain and practical help

Coping with cancer pain can be harder if you are anxious about things such as:

Getting help with these things may help you feel less stressed. This can help with pain relief.

Talk to your healthcare team about any concerns you have about cancer treatment and side effects. You can also talk to one of our cancer support specialists on the Macmillan Support Line.

You may worry that pain will affect how you travel or attend appointments. If this is the case, you may find the Blue Badge scheme useful. This allows you to park in parking spaces closer to where you need to go.

A social worker can check what practical and social help you need. They can visit you at home to see if you need help with things like:

  • meals
  • personal care, such as washing and dressing
  • finances.

Your local authority will then let you know about services they can help with. Services vary in different areas. The local authority may suggest other community organisations that can help.

Voluntary and community organisations

Voluntary and community organisations may be able to offer support.

  • British Red Cross

    The British Red Cross has volunteers who can help you with things like shopping, posting letters or changing library books. They may be able to help you get to hospital appointments. They also lend equipment like wheelchairs and commodes (portable toilets). Services vary in different parts of the UK.

  • Living Made Easy

    Living Made Easy has information and advice for disabled people. They also have advisers and occupational therapists who can advise about mobility aids and equipment.

  • Scope

    Scope has practical information and emotional support and advice for disabled people.

  • Good Neighbour Schemes

    Some areas have schemes to help people with things like shopping, meeting other people or transport. These are often called good neighbour schemes and are usually run by social services or local community organisations. Contact your local council or look online to find out what is available in your area.

Cancer pain and your emotions

Being in pain can affect how you think and feel. You may feel angry, frustrated, frightened or isolated.

How we feel can also be linked to how we experience pain. Pain can feel worse when we feel anxious and easier to cope with when we are more relaxed.

You might find our pain diary helpful to keep a record of your pain. Keeping a record can show a pattern which can be used to help improve pain control. Describing your pain helps your doctors find the right treatment for the type of pain you have.

When your pain is well controlled, it will improve the way you feel. It also means you can do the things you enjoy and see other people. Always talk to your doctor if the pain is not controlled.

Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may help you to manage pain. Meditation techniques such as mindfulness may also help.

We have more information about pain management without drugs.


If pain is not well controlled, you may feel depressed. You may have a low mood most of the time. You may also have difficulty sleeping or no appetite. The pain may feel worse and harder to cope with.

If you or people around you think you may be depressed, talk to your GP. They can help you to get the right treatment and support. They may suggest you see a counsellor or psychologist. Your GP may talk to you about taking anti-depressants to improve your mood or reduce anxiety.

Getting emotional support

If you feel okay emotionally, your physical pain may feel better. There are many people and organisations that can help you cope with difficult feelings. Non-medical treatments may also help. Ask your doctor or specialist palliative care nurse which ones would be best for you.

It can help to talk about your feelings. You could talk to your partner, if you have one, a close friend or family member. If you do not talk, they may not realise you have pain. They may not understand how the pain is making you feel, and why you are angry or upset.

You may prefer not to talk to anyone you know about your feelings. If this is the case, you can talk to your GP or specialist palliative care nurse. They can help by putting you in contact with a counsellor. You could also contact the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Or you can speak to Macmillan’s cancer support specialists on 0800 808 0000.

  • Useful organisations

    Different organisations offer advice, support and information about pain:

  • Support groups

    It can often help to share how you are feeling with other people who understand what you are going through. Local support groups offer a chance to talk to other people who may also be managing pain. You can find a support group in your area.

  • Online support

    Many people find support on the internet. There are online support groups, social networking sites, forums, chat rooms and blogs for people affected by cancer, including Macmillan’s Online Community. You can use these to share your experiences, ask questions, get advice, or just read other people’s stories.

  • Spiritual support

    Spirituality can mean different things to different people. It may be religious, or it may be expressed through music, art, nature, or how you relate to your family or community.

    A person’s spirituality can be an important source of comfort and strength. Some people with cancer find their spiritual beliefs are challenged by their situation. They may experience ‘spiritual pain’ and feel abandoned, or frightened. Sometimes they may withdraw from family and friends.

    You may find it helpful to talk through your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. This may be a close friend or family member, a health and social care professional or a chaplain or religious leader. If you would prefer to talk to a non-religious counsellor or pastoral carer, your GP, specialist nurse or hospital doctor may be able to help you find one.

    All these people may be able to help you work out your thoughts and feelings.

About our information

  • 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 professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by our Senior Medical Editor, Dr Ollie Minton, Macmillan 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.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 August 2022
Next review: 01 August 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.