If you’re a carer with cancer

If you're looking after someone while you're living with cancer, you may need support with your caring duties. It’s important to discuss your cancer treatment with your doctor to understand how this may affect your ability to care for your loved one.

If it is possible, try to talk through how you and the person you’re caring for are going to cope when you have treatment. You could involve them in making new caring arrangements if necessary. If the person you’re caring for is not mentally able to discuss those changes with you, you may find it helpful to speak to family or friends.

Try not to feel guilty about making new care arrangements and getting support to look after the person you are caring for. It’s important that you concentrate on your treatment and take the time to look after yourself to get better.

Support is available for carers who have cancer. This can be in the form of financial help, support groups, health visitors or social services who can help you organise new care arrangements.

If you’re a carer with cancer

If you’re responsible for caring for a partner, relative or friend who is disabled or ill and are diagnosed with cancer, this may seem like an overwhelming situation. You will need time to think about how you’re going to manage to care for someone while you yourself are ill and possibly having treatment.

You’ll need to understand what treatment you need for your cancer, and how this will affect your health and ability to care for someone else in the short and long term. You should be told when your treatment can start and how long it might take. This can help you decide whether you can continue in your role of carer, with help and support, or whether other arrangements will need to be made for the person you care for.

If the person you’re caring for is mentally able to, it will help to talk through how you are both going to cope now that you have been diagnosed with cancer. If the person you care for is unable to fully understand your illness (for example, if they have dementia or learning difficulties), you may find it helpful to talk things through with someone else, such as another family member or close friend.

Taking things in steps

  • Decide whether you can involve the person you care for in any planning. For example, you could ask them who they would like to care for them if you have to go into hospital for a period of time. Or, you could ask if they would be happy to spend a short time in a care home. If you aren’t able to include them in the planning, find a trusted family member or close friend and talk things through with them. You can also talk to our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.
  • Take a realistic look at the needs of the person you care for. Could they manage at home temporarily without your support? What do you do each day? What could other people do? There are services that can offer temporary help, such as respite care. Our cancer support specialists can tell you more. They can also advise on other support available to carers, including financial help and support for carers who are working.
  • Talk through your caring responsibilities and your planned treatment with one of the medical and nursing team. Ask how soon you’ll be able to go back to your caring role.
  • Talk to your GP, health visitor or social services. Find out how extra help at home, or a temporary place in a care home, can be arranged. Ask how quickly this could be available.
  • Once arrangements are in place, talk again to your cancer team and give them the go-ahead for your treatment to begin.
  • It can help to have a few restful days before your operation or the start of treatment, when you don’t have to do your caring duties. This will give you the chance to build up your strength, catch up on some rest and get yourself organised.
  • If the person you care for hasn’t been involved in your plans, you’ll need to decide when to tell them about the changes that are needed. This can be a difficult conversation. Don’t feel that you are to blame, and try not to feel guilty about the changes you are forced to make at this time. Your cancer treatment may be your number one priority for a time, and you’ll need to concentrate on getting well again.

Support for each other

No one knows more about the impact cancer has on a person’s life than those who have been affected by the illness themselves. That’s why we help to bring people with cancer and carers together online and in their communities.

You can find out about people affected by cancer who meet in your area to support each other by calling us on 0808 808 00 00 or by visiting our self-help and support group information. You can also share your experiences, ask questions and get support from others by heading to our online community.

We also have more information about getting support as a carer.