Looking after yourself
Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain, so it’s important to look after your wellbeing. Cancer Council has free booklets and programs to help you during and after treatment. Call 13 11 20 to find out more.
For some people, having cancer is like an emotional roller-coaster. You may have mixed feelings before, during and after surgery. It’s natural to feel anxious, vulnerable, scared or angry.
For more on this, see Emotions and cancer.
Having surgery can change the way you think and feel about yourself (your confidence and self-esteem). You may feel less confident about who you are and what you can do. This feeling is common whether your body has changed physically or not. Give yourself time to adapt to any changes.
For practical suggestions about managing changes to your body, such as scars or weight changes, call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
If the surgeon removes lymph nodes from your armpit, groin or pelvic area, the lymph fluid may no longer drain properly and your arm or leg may swell. This is called lymphoedema. Although lymphoedema may be permanent, it can usually be managed. Early diagnosis and treatment lead to better outcomes.
For more on this, see Lymphoedema.
Surgery is stressful, tiring and upsetting, and this may strain relationships. Give yourself time to adjust to what’s happening, and do the same for those around you. It may help to discuss your feelings with each other.
Surgery for cancer can affect your sexuality in physical and emotional ways. The impact of these changes depends on many factors, such as treatment and side effects, your self-confidence, and if you have a partner. Although sexual intercourse may not always be possible, closeness and sharing can still be part of your relationship.
For more on this, see Sexuality, intimacy and cancer.
Contraception and fertility
If you can have sex, you may need to use certain types of contraception to protect your partner or avoid pregnancy for a time. Your doctor will explain what precautions to take. They will also tell you if treatment will affect your fertility permanently or temporarily. If having children is important to you, discuss the options with your doctor before starting treatment.
For more on this, see Fertility and cancer.
Complementary therapies are designed to be used alongside conventional medical treatments. Therapies such as massage, relaxation and acupuncture can increase your sense of control, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve your mood. Let your doctor know about any therapies you are using or thinking about trying, as some may not be safe or evidence-based.
For more on this, see Complementary therapies.
Work and money
Cancer can change your financial situation, especially if you have extra medical expenses or need to stop working. Getting professional financial advice and talking to your employer can give you peace of mind. You can also check with a social worker or Cancer Council whether any financial assistance is available to you.
Prof Andrew Spillane, Surgical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute of Australia, and Professor of Surgical Oncology, The University of Sydney Northern Clinical School, NSW; Lynne Hendrick, Consumer; Judy Holland, Physiotherapist, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Kara Hutchinson, Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Declan Murphy, Urologist and Director of Genitourinary Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof Stephan Schug, Director of Pain Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, and Chair of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, The University of Western Australia Medical School, WA; Dr Emma Secomb, Specialist Surgeon, Hinterland Surgical Centre, QLD. We would like to thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Exercise and cancer
Exercise helps most people during and after cancer treatment. Find out which exercises are best for you, learn about our free exercise programs, and watch our series of exercise videos
Work and cancer
Information for employees, employers and workplaces dealing with cancer