Living with an ulcerating tumour | Cancer Research UK
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Living with an ulcerating tumour

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This page has information on living with an ulcerating tumour. There is information about


Getting help and support

Some of the information on this page may be upsetting for you to read. It can help to have someone with you or at least nearby, to give support if you need it. If you have an ulcerating tumour, it is likely to affect you emotionally as well as physically. Coming to terms with the change in your body and how you see yourself can be hard. It can bring up strong emotions that can be difficult to deal with.

You are not alone in feeling like this. Many people need some sort of help and support during this difficult time. Talking to friends and family or having counselling can help. A local cancer support group can also provide support.

You may still be dealing with your diagnosis of cancer and the side effects of treatment. Your whole life may have changed. If your cancer is advanced you may also be worried about the possibility of death and dying. This can be very frightening and hard to talk about. But it is helpful to try and express these feelings with someone that you trust.

There is more information about who to talk to in the coping emotionally with cancer section

We also have a separate section about death and dying.


Emotions you may have

If you have an ulcerating tumour, the most common emotions that you may feel include

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Depression
  • Repulsion towards your body image
  • Low self esteem
  • Feeling embarrassed about your tumour
  • Isolation

There is more information about dealing with some of these feelings in the coping emotionally with cancer section.


Relationships with family and friends

You may worry about how your wound will affect your relationships with your family and friends. You may have practical worries about how the smell from the wound or appearance of the wound will affect them, especially if there are children in the family. Or you may have emotional worries about being rejected. You may find yourself avoiding social gatherings or physical contact. These feelings are not uncommon and it is important to remember that family members and friends often

  • Have the same feelings as you
  • Need as much help and advice as you do

After talking openly to close family and friends, many people find their fears of rejection disappear. Most people want you to know they care and don't want you to feel isolated. They are only too willing to try to understand and to help if they can.


Communication difficulties

If your wound is on your face or neck it may affect your speech. Some facial wounds can spread into the mouth or tongue and this may make you slur your words. If the wound is painful you are likely to speak less.

Many of us take talking for granted. Losing the ability to talk or finding that you can no longer talk as fluently as you used to can be distressing and frustrating. It will take a while to adjust to these changes. Give yourself time and if necessary to find new ways of speaking and communicating. A speech and language therapist can help and provide you with aids for communication.

You may find it useful to carry a small notebook and pen to write notes to people if you need to. Be patient with yourself and don't feel bad if you need more time to get across what you want to say. Most people will be supportive and appreciate the effort you are making.


Changes in the way you look

Having an ulcerating tumour can change the way you look. Depending on where it is, other people may or may not be able to see it. If it is on a part of the body that is hard to cover up such as the head and neck area, it can be very hard to cope with.

How you look is an important part of your self esteem. It can be very difficult to accept sudden changes in your looks that you are not happy with. It is not unusual for people who have an ulcerating tumour on their face to feel very angry, confused and upset. You may feel worried about how your friends and family see you. You may think that you are no longer as physically attractive to your partner.

Going out and meeting new people can be more of a struggle if you are trying to cope with changes in your appearance. If you have children you may worry how their friends will see you and whether this will affect your children. Don't feel abnormal if you are worrying about any of these things. The important thing to remember is that the people most important to you will not see you any differently as a person.

The best support you are likely to get is from your close family and friends. Some people may choose not to share too much with relatives and friends because they don't want to upset them. But you will be surprised how much it can help just to share your feelings. There are tips on talking about cancer in our coping emotionally with cancer section.

It may help your confidence a bit to hide any visible dressings or wounds by wearing

  • Scarves to hide a wound on your neck
  • Hats to take the attention away from your face

Sometimes it is best not to draw attention to the affected area. Trying to do too much to hide changes does not always help. Experiment and do what makes you feel the most comfortable.


Moving around

If your wound is near a joint, such as in your armpit, it will limit how much you can move your arm. Genital or groin wounds can make walking, going to the toilet and sitting down uncomfortable and difficult.

These problems will be worse if you have chronic swelling (lymphoedema) in the arm or leg. Do ask for help – good dressings and treatment for your lymphoedema may make a lot of difference to you.


Sexual relationships

Any changes in your appearance and speech problems may make you feel less confident about sex. You may feel that you cannot continue to have any intimate sexual relationship. Side effects from treatment can make you very tired and lower your sex drive (libido). You may also be worried that the sight or smell of your wound will put your partner off.

You may begin to isolate yourself from your partner for fear of them rejecting you. As hard as it may seem, you will probably find that it helps to talk things over with your partner. It will take time for you both to come to terms with what has happened to you. But sharing how you feel can really help. You may prefer to talk to a specialist counsellor or to a sex therapist, alone or with your partner. Your doctor can refer you if you would like this type of help.

Your partner is likely to be feeling worried too. They probably want you to know that they still love you and do want to be near you. Remember that just holding hands and talking can bring you closer together. Knowing that there is someone on your side can help to reduce feelings of isolation and depression.

The sex and sexuality section has more detailed information about sexual relationships and cancer.

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Updated: 5 February 2015