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Living with an ulcerating tumour

Having an ulcerating tumour can affect you emotionally as well as physically. It can help to know about these effects and how to deal with them.

Getting help and support

Some of the information on this page might be upsetting for you to read. It can help to have someone with you or at least nearby, to give you support if you need it.

It can be hard to come to terms with the change in your body and how you see yourself. It can bring up strong emotions that can be difficult to deal with.

You're 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 could 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 might also be worried about the possibility of death and dying.

This can be very frightening and hard to talk about. But it’s helpful to try and express these feelings with someone that you trust.

The most common emotions you might feel if you have an ulcerating tumour include:

  • fear
  • anger
  • denial
  • depression
  • repulsion towards your body image
  • low self esteem
  • feeling embarrassed about your tumour
  • isolation

You might worry about how your wound will affect your relationships with your family and friends.

You could have practical worries about how the smell or the 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 might find yourself avoiding social gatherings or physical contact.

These feelings are not uncommon. It’s important to remember that family members and friends often have the same feelings as you and need as much help and advice.

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.

Any changes in your appearance or speech problems might make you feel less confident about sex.

You might feel that you can't continue to have any intimate sexual relationship. Side effects from treatment can make you very tired and lower your sex drive (libido). You could also be worried that the sight or smell of your wound will put your partner off. You might begin to isolate yourself from your partner because you’re afraid they will reject you.

As hard as it might 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.

A wound on your face and neck might affect your speech.

Some facial wounds can spread into the mouth or tongue and this might make you slur your words. You’re likely to speak less if the wound is painful.

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. 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.

Having an ulcerating tumour can change the way you look.

Whether other people can see the tumour depends on where it is. It can be very hard to cope with a tumour on a part of the body that’s hard to cover up, such as the head or neck.

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 about.

It’s not unusual for people who have an ulcerating tumour on their face to feel very angry, confused and upset. You might feel worried about how your friends and family see you. Or you might think that you’re 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 might worry how their friends will see you and whether this will affect your children.

Don't feel abnormal if you’re worrying about any of these things. The main thing to remember is that the people most important to you will not see you any differently as a person.

Things that can help

The best support you are likely to get is from your close family and friends. Some people might 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.

It might 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

But sometimes it's best not to draw attention to the affected area. Trying to do too much to hide the changes doesn’t always help. Just experiment and do what makes you feel the most comfortable.

A wound near a joint, such as in your armpit, 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.

Last reviewed: 
05 Feb 2015
  • Symptom management in advanced cancer (4th edition)
    Twycross R, Wilcock A and Toller S
    Radcliffe Medical Press Ltd, 2009

  • Fungating wounds - Multidimensional challenge in palliative care
    Breast Care 2011;6:21-24. PMID 21547022

  • Review of patients' experiences with fungating wounds and associated qualify of life
    Journal of Wound Care, Vol 22, No 5, May 2013

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