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Coping

Find out what you can do, who can help and how to cope with a diagnosis of cancer.

Helping yourself

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

Taking in information can be difficult, especially when you have just been diagnosed. 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.

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 and them.

Help your family and friends by letting them know if 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. We have cancer information nurses you can call on our freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Or you may prefer to see a counsellor.

Relationships and sex

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

Coping 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

Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.

Physical changes

Mouth and oropharyngeal cancer and the treatment can cause physical changes in your body. These changes can be difficult to cope with and may affect the way you feel about yourself. It might affect your self esteem, and the way you relate to other people. 

Head and neck cancer and its treatment can cause changes in:

  • speech
  • eating
  • breathing 
  • appearance 

You might be feeling very tired and lethargic a lot of the time, especially during and for a while after the treatment or if your cancer is advanced.

Stopping smoking

Stopping smoking after mouth and oropharyngeal cancer can reduce your risk of your cancer coming back. This can be extremely difficult especially if you have smoked for many years.

Free services and treatments are available to help.

Last reviewed: 
11 May 2018
  • Head and Neck Cancer: Multidisciplinary Management Guidelines 4th edition

    British Association of Otorhinolaryngology, 2011

  • Oropharyngeal cancer: United Kingdom National Multidisciplinary Guidelines

    H Mehanna and others 

    The Journal of Laryngology and Otology 2016 volume 130, supplement S2, pages S90-S96

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.