Tips for getting through treatment

Your doctors will often want to start treatment as soon as possible. But before then, you will have time to meet with them to discuss your treatment plan. It’s important that you understand what the treatment involves and any possible side effects. Your doctors can tell you how long it is likely to last and what effect it might have on your life. You will be able to ask questions about your treatment plan.

Some people feel that they would like a second opinion from another consultant. This is usually possible and can be arranged through your current consultant or your GP.

Getting through treatment can be tough, but there are things you can do to help. This can include:

  • talking to your family and friends
  • listening to music and watching DVDs
  • writing and drawing about your feelings
  • doing exercise to help reduce tiredness
  • trying out different hats, jewellery and make-up if you have lost your hair.

Some people use complementary therapies to help cope with side effects of treatment. Talk to your healthcare team before using any complementary therapy.

Before you start treatment

Different treatments are used for different types of cancer. Your doctors will choose the treatment that is best for the type of cancer you have. You may have more than one type of treatment.

Planning your treatment

Your doctors will usually want to start your treatment as soon as possible. They will put together a plan to treat the cancer. You will meet different members of the healthcare team. This includes the consultant and other hospital doctors, nurses and other people who will be involved in your care. You may be given a keyworker – this is often a nurse who will keep in touch with you to make sure you have all the information and support you need.

Your doctors will talk to you (and maybe your parents or carers) about your illness and the treatment plan. There may be times when you prefer to talk to the medical staff on your own. You can ask for this if you would like.

Making decisions

When you are diagnosed with cancer, you may feel that you have lost control. You are seeing lots of doctors, nurses and specialists, and everyone seems to be telling you what to do.

Your cancer doctor or nurse may give you lots of information about cancer and treatments, and you may have decisions to make. It is important that you get all the facts and support you need to make these decisions. It will help to know:

  • what the treatment is
  • how long it may last
  • what the side effects might be
  • what effect is it going to have on your life.

You should also have plenty of time to ask questions and to think about what you want to do. Treatment is different for everybody, and you won’t know exactly what it is going to feel like until you start. But it will help to understand as much as you can. You may be able to chat to someone who has had similar treatment. Ask the hospital staff if you would like to do this.

If you want to look online for information about treatment, make sure you visit websites that you can trust.

If you aren’t sure about having a particular type of treatment, you can ask for more time to think about it. Talk to your doctor or a nurse about anything you are worried about.

The doctors can’t give you any treatment until you have agreed to have it. This is called giving consent. If you are aged under 16, you may need the written consent of your parent or guardian. If you are aged over 16, you can sign the consent form yourself.

Getting a second opinion

If you, or your parents or guardians, feel it would be helpful, you can ask for the opinion of another specialist. This is known as getting a second opinion. Either your GP or consultant should be willing to refer you to another specialist. However, getting a second opinion may delay the start of your treatment. So you, your doctor and your parents or guardians need to be sure that it will be helpful.

It didn’t really sink in for me until my first day of treatment when I actually walked into the hospital and realised what was going to happen to me


Getting through treatment

Being diagnosed with cancer can come as a big shock. Finding out about the treatment can be just as difficult to take in, especially when you learn about the possible side effects.

It is normal to feel anxious, stressed or low sometimes when you have cancer. You may go through lots of different emotions. There are things you can try (depending on your situation) to help you feel better:

  • Talking to talk to family, friends, a partner or your healthcare team can often help. Choose whoever is best for you. Your healthcare team will not be surprised by any of your feelings and can suggest things that might help.
  • Listening to your favourite music, relaxation CDs, or podcasts, or playing computer games can all help you unwind.
  • Writing and drawing are great ways to express your feelings. No one else has to see it, so you can write and draw whatever you like.
  • Doing exercise can help reduce tiredness and improve your mood. You could try running, walking or riding a bike. Ask your doctor or specialist nurse for advice about this.
  • If you have lost your hair, try out different hats, jewellery and make-up. Have fun and be as bold as you want.

Complementary therapies

Some people use complementary therapies alongside other cancer treatments to help them feel better or to relieve symptoms or side effects. Complementary therapies don’t claim to cure cancer. Some have been scientifically tested to check how effective and safe they are. Talk to your hospital staff if you want to try a complementary therapy. We have more information about complementary therapies. This information has been written for all age groups.

Will you get better?

Cancer treatment is tough, but more and more people are being cured. This isn’t true for everyone though, and nobody can guarantee that treatment will be successful.

Coping with this uncertainty is one of the hardest parts of living with cancer. But even for people who aren’t cured, cancer can often be controlled for a long time with the right treatment. Doctors are learning more all the time about improving the treatments and helping people get the most out of their life.

Questions you could ask about treatment

Here are some questions you might want to ask your doctor or nurse.

  • What are my treatment options?
  • Can I have time to think about it before making a decision?
  • What are the benefits and disadvantages of each treatment?
  • What is the aim of this treatment?
  • Will I need to be in hospital?
  • How long will each treatment session take?
  • How long will I need to have treatment for?
  • Will it hurt?
  • What are the side effects?
  • If the treatment doesn’t work, what will happen?