Coping with salivary gland cancer can be difficult. There are things you can do and specialists who can help you to cope with your diagnosis.
You might have a number of different feelings when you're told you have cancer.
You may feel a range of powerful emotions at first such as feeling shocked, upset and find it difficult to take in anything else that is being said to you. Other emotions include feeling:
- frightened and uncertain
- angry and resentful
You may have some or all of these feelings. Or you might feel totally different. You may feel them a few at a time or altogether, leaving you feeling exhausted.
Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it's hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all. You need to do what’s right for you to help you cope.
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 or given sad news about your outlook. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask. They can also help you to remember the information that was given. Getting a lot of new information can feel overwhelming.
Ask your doctors and nurse specialists to explain things again if you need them to.
You might feel that you don’t want to know much information straight away. Tell your doctor or nurse. You will always be able to ask for more information when you feel ready.
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.
You can also do practical things such as:
- making lists to help you
- having a calendar with all appointments
- having goals
- planning enjoyable things around weeks that might be trickier than others
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 or be afraid they will say the wrong thing.
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 other than your own friends and family. We have cancer information nurses you can call on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Or you may prefer to see a counsellor.
You can chat with other people affected by cancer in our online forum.
Specialist nurses can help if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if you have any problems. They can get you the help you need. They can also give you information.
Specialist nurses are usually your first point of call if you have any questions or concerns. Make sure you know who your specialist nurse is and have their telephone number.
NHS Choices has a service that tells you about local information and support.
Mouth Cancer Foundation is a charity that supports people affected by head and neck cancer. Its website has information about mouth, throat and other head and neck cancers. The website also has a forum and information on local support groups.
How cancer can affect you physically
You might also have to come to terms with physical changes caused by your cancer and its treatment. This might include a change in your appearance.
These changes vary depending on which salivary gland is affected and the treatment you have.
You might also have changes to how you eat and drink. This is usually temporary but can be difficult to cope with.
Speech and language therapists
Speech and language therapists are skilled in the assessment, treatment and management of patients who have communication or swallowing difficulties.
Dietitians can help you with any eating problems you have. Your dietitian can also plan a special diet to make sure you get all the calories and nutrients you need.
Relationships and sex
The physical and emotional changes you have might affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to manage this.
You and your family might need to cope with practical things including:
- money matters
- financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
- work issues
- Blue Badge applications
- help with travel costs
- changes to your house
Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. You might be able to get some benefits for yourself and the person caring for you. You might also be able to get grants for heating costs, holidays and other household expenses related to your illness.
Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later. It may be helpful to see a social worker. Many hospital cancer departments have a social worker available for patients.
Support at home for you and your family
GP and nursing support
Your GP manages your healthcare when you are at home. They can help with any medical problems that come up. They can also make referrals to a community service for you. The availability of the different community services may vary, depending on where you live.
These nurses work in different places in your local area and may visit you in your home. They can:
- give medicines or injections
- check temperature, blood pressure and breathing
- clean and dress wounds
- monitor or set up drips
- give emotional support
- teach basic caring skills to family members where needed
- get special equipment, such as commodes or bed pans
Social workers can arrange:
- home helps to help with shopping or housework
- home care assistants for washing and dressing
- meals on wheels
Your social worker can also help with money matters by checking you get all the benefits you’re entitled to. Or they can arrange charity grants for things like extra heating costs or special diets.
Contact a social worker yourself by getting in touch with your local social services office. Or ask your specialist nurse or your GP to refer you.
Cancer Research UK nurses
For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available. Freephone: 0808 800 4040 - Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.