Coping with mouth cancer | Cancer Research UK
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A quick guide to what's on this page

It can be very difficult coping with a diagnosis of mouth or oropharyngeal cancer, both practically and emotionally. You are likely to feel very confused and upset at first. As well as coping with the fear and anxiety that a diagnosis of cancer brings, you have to work out how to manage practically. Our section about coping with cancer contains lots of information you may find helpful. There are sections about

  • Your feelings
  • Talking to people: who and what to tell
  • Talking to children
  • How you can help yourself
  • Who else can help you
  • Financial support, including Government benefits and charity grants


CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Living with mouth cancer section.



Learning to cope with mouth cancer

It can be very difficult coping with a diagnosis of cancer, both practically and emotionally. At first, you are likely to feel very upset, frightened and confused. You may also feel that things are out of your control. It is very important to get the right information about the type of cancer you have and how it is best treated. People who are well informed about their illness and treatment are more able to make decisions and cope with what happens.


Physical changes caused by mouth cancer and its treatment

Mouth or oropharyngeal cancer and its treatment may cause physical changes in your body. These changes can be very difficult to cope with and may affect the way you feel about yourself. Such changes can affect your self esteem and the way you relate to other people, especially close family and friends. 

Another problem you may have to cope with is feeling very tired and lethargic a lot of the time, especially during and for a while after treatment or if the cancer is advanced. We have information about tiredness (fatigue) and cancer and treating cancer fatigue. Mouth or oropharyngeal cancer can make it more difficult for you to digest food, especially if you have surgery. There is information about diet and mouth cancer in this section.

If you are having a sexual relationship, one or all of these changes may affect your sex life. There is information about how cancer can affect your sex life in the coping with cancer section.

Head and neck cancer and its treatment can cause changes in 

The links above take you to information about coping with these changes.


Stopping smoking

You may be trying to stop smoking, to reduce your risk of developing another cancer. This can be extremely difficult especially if you have smoked for many years. There is information about organisations that can help you stop smoking on our mouth and oropharyngeal cancer organisations page.


Coping practically with mouth and oropharyngeal cancer

As well as coping with the fear and anxiety that a diagnosis of cancer brings, you may also have to work out how to manage practically. There may be money matters to sort out. You may need information about financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants. Who do you tell that you have cancer? And how do you find the words? You may also have children to think about. We have information about talking to people about your cancer and how and what to tell children.

Just try to remember that you don't have to sort everything out at once. It may take some time to deal with each issue. Do ask for help if you need it though. Your doctor or specialist nurse will know who you can contact to get some help and they can put you in touch with people who can support you. These people are there to help and want you to feel that you have support. So use them if you feel you need to.


Where to get more help and information

Our coping with cancer section contains lots of information you may find helpful. You could contact our cancer information nurses, or one of the counselling organisations for information about counselling and sources of emotional support in your area.

If you would like more information about coping with mouth or oropharyngeal cancer, contact one of the mouth cancer organisations. They will be happy to help. They often have free factsheets and booklets they can send to you. They may also be able to put you in touch with a support group. 

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use CancerChat, our online forum. Or you can go through My Wavelength. This is a free service that aims to put people with similar medical conditions in touch with each other.

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Updated: 21 October 2014