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Coping

Read about what you can do, who can help and how to cope with the physical and practical problems of bladder cancer. 

Your feelings

You might have a number of different feelings when you are told you have cancer. You may feel shocked and upset. You might also feel:

  • numb
  • frightened and uncertain
  • confused
  • angry and resentful
  • guilty

You may feel some or all of these feelings. Or you may feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it is hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.

Feelings are a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.

Helping yourself

You are more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information also helps you to know what to expect.

Taking in information can be difficult at first. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask and help remember the answers.

Ask your doctors and nurses to explain things again if you need them to.

Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.

Treatment causes side effects. These can be mild or more severe. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any side effects or if they get worse. They can treat them and help you find ways of coping.

Talking to other people

Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you.

Help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.

You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.

You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Physical problems

Bladder cancer and its treatment might cause physical changes to your body. It may be difficult to cope with these changes and they can affect the way you feel about yourself.

Cystoscopies

Having regular cystoscopies can give you symptoms similar to having a bladder infection (cystitis), such as:

  • needing to pass urine often (frequency)
  • needing to go quickly (urgency)
  • pain or stinging when passing urine

You can also get a urine infection or blood in the urine (haematuria) afterwards. Your doctor or specialist nurse will advise you how to cope with this. They can also prescribe medicines to help.

After a cystoscopy to remove early bladder cancer, you might worry that the cancer could come back and that you may need further treatment. Knowing that you are going to have cystoscopies every few months might also worry you. But if everything goes well, your check ups gradually become less frequent.

Surgery

Surgery for bladder cancer might cause scarring. It can be difficult if you have your whole bladder removed (radical cystectomy).

You can get support to help you deal with the changes after surgery, particularly if you have a stoma. These body changes can affect your self esteem and the way you relate to close family and friends.

Tiredness

You might also feel very tired and lethargic a lot of the time. This can be for a while after treatment, or if your bladder cancer is advanced.

Relationships and sex

The physical changes you have can affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to help.

Coping practically

As well as coping with the fear and anxiety that a diagnosis of bladder cancer brings, you might also have to work out how to manage practically. 

Practical things you and your family might need to cope with include:

  • money matters
  • financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
  • work issues
  • childcare

Try to remember that you don't have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue.

Ask for help if you need it. Your doctor or specialist nurse should know who you can contact to get help. They can put you in touch with professionals who are specially trained in supporting people with cancer. These people are there to help you so use them if you feel you need to.

You can get support from a stoma nurse or dietician. Social workers can help you with information about your entitlement to sick pay, benefits and help you to organise convalescence if you need when you first come out of hospital.

Last reviewed: 
21 May 2015
  • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer
    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), March 2004

  • Cancer and its management (6th edition)

    J. Tobias and D. Hochhauser. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (9th edition)

    Lisa Dougherty and Sara Lister. Wiley Blackwell, 2015

Information and help

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