Why join a support group?

Many people living with cancer find that joining a group where they can meet people who have similar experiences to their own can make them feel less isolated. A group provides social and emotional support, there are social events and speakers.

You are able to talk about your experiences and share stories with people who have also been affected by cancer.

We understand what you are going through and this may help you feel less alone. There is a lot of research that shows support groups can really help people to come to terms with cancer and its treatment, and to live well afterwards.

What can I expect when I go to a support group meeting?

Support groups are all different, but the one thing we have in common is that there’s a warm and supportive welcome for anyone who attends meetings – whether they’re regular attenders or coming for the first time. The best thing to do is to have a chat with the support group leader so you can find out about the group. They can even arrange to meet you, or have another group member meet you so that you can go into the meeting together.

How can I start a support group?

Please check the list of support groups on this site. There isn’t a group for every cancer because there are many different cancers. If you want to start another one please get in touch we are happy to help.

Where can I get advice on running a support group?

That’s what we are here for! We are not claiming we have all the answers but the network is made up of people running existing groups and we aim by meeting, training and talking together to help individual leaders to run their group well. Why don’t you get in touch?

COVID-19 advice for cancer patients

MacMillan Cancer Support has published this helpful guide for cancer patients worried about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most important thing is to follow the advice from the NHS and your healthcare team.

People with cancer may be at a higher risk of getting coronavirus (COVID-19), so following this advice is especially important. This page includes advice and information from the NHS and GOV.UK.

If you’re feeling anxious about coronavirus, we’re here to give you emotional help.

  • Social-distancing – Everyone in the UK must practice social distancing to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Please visit GOV.UK for guidance on social distancing.
  • Shielding – The government has issued shielding guidance for people who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus because of underlying health conditions.
  • Self-isolation – If you live in a household with a possible coronavirus infection, you need to self-isolate. We have advice to help you with self-isolation.
  • The information on this page is about coronavirus and cancer. If you’re looking for other information about a particular type of cancer, test, treatment or drug, search for it in our A-Z.

Are people with cancer more vulnerable to coronavirus?

Some people with cancer and those who have received or are receiving certain treatments are more at risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract the COVID-19 infection: These are:

  • people undergoing active chemotherapy
  • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • people having intensive (radical) radiotherapy for lung cancer
  • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment.

If you are in this category, the NHS will directly contact you with advice about the more stringent measures you should take in order to keep yourself and others safe.

These measures may include shielding.

Does cancer affect my immune system?

The immune system is the body’s defence against bacteria, viruses and other foreign organisms or harmful chemicals. The blood and the lymphatic system are part of the immune system.

Some types of cancer can affect your immune system. For example, blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukaemia.

Some cancer treatments also affect the immune system. This includes chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Radiotherapy may sometimes affect your immune system. Most people’s immune system will recover well after they have finished their treatment.

What will happen to my cancer treatment?

If you are having cancer treatment now, or you’re preparing to have it soon, it’s understandable if you’re worried about how coronavirus might affect you. Your clinical team is best placed to talk with you about the effect on your treatment and appointments.

Will there be problems accessing my cancer drugs?

There are currently no medicine shortages as a result of coronavirus The UK is well prepared to deal with any impacts of the coronavirus and we have stockpiles of generic drugs like paracetamol in the event of any supply issues.

What should I do if I have coronavirus symptoms?

The symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are:

  • a new, continuous cough and/or
  • a high temperature
  • If you have a cancer or are having a treatment that affects your immune system and you experience any signs of infection including COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact the chemotherapy care line, the Acute Oncology Service at your treating hospital or whatever number you were given by your team in the event of an urgent query. The important thing is to get urgent medical advice.

For anyone else with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) the advice is to visit NHS 111. If you do not have access to the internet, call 111. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started.

I’m self-isolating at home and I need support. What help is there?

We know that self-isolating isn’t easy. There is support available.

MacMillan have put together some advice to help you cope with staying at home. This includes things like how to prepare, staying in touch with family and friends, and the support available for getting essential things like food and prescriptions. Read our advice to help you cope with self-isolating.

It’s important to look after your physical and mental well-being. We know this isn’t easy to do when you have to stay at home. Here is some advice to help you stay active and eat well while at home.

Relay for Life

Anyone who has ever lived with cancer is invited to bring your loved ones and join a weekend of celebrations as a special guest of Cancer Research UK at Relay for Life Plymouth.

It will be held at Tor Bridge High School, Miller Way, Estover, Plymouth PL6 8UN on 25-26 July 2020. Find out more at cruk.org/relay or ring  0300 123 1026

What can I ask my doctor?

Your GP is unlikely to be a cancer specialist. Their job is to direct you to the specialist health care team most able to help you.

If he or she suspects, from what you have told them about your symptoms, that you might have cancer they will refer you to the hospital for further investigations.

You can also ask for a second opinion or a referral.

Questions you might ask include:

1.   Do you think I might have cancer?

2.   Are you going to refer me?

3.   What happens next?

4.   How long will I have to wait to see someone?

5.   Will there be tests?

6.   What will these involve?

7.   How long will it take to get results?

8.   Will we both be told?

9.   What sort of treatment will I need?

10.  Will I  have to take time off work?

11.  Will I still be able to come to see you?

12.  Is there anyone I can talk to more about this?

The Macmillan Support Line can help with clinical, practical and financial information. Please call us on 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm).

You can download our guide to planning your questions to your healthcare team by clicking below.

What is cancer?

Cancer starts in our cells – the tiny building blocks that make up the body’s organs and tissues.

Sometimes the signal between cells can go wrong, and the cell becomes abnormal. The abnormal cell may keep dividing to make more and more abnormal cells. These can form a lump, called a tumour.

Not all tumours are cancer. Doctors can tell if a tumour is cancer by taking a small sample of cells from it. This is called a biopsy. The doctors examine the sample under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

A tumour that is not cancer (a benign tumour) may grow, but it cannot spread to anywhere else in the body. It usually only causes problems if it grows and presses on nearby organs.

A tumour that is cancer (a malignant tumour) can grow into nearby tissue.

Sometimes cancer cells spread from where the cancer started (the primary site) to other parts of the body. They can travel around the body in the blood or through lymph fluid which is part of the lymphatic system. When these cancer cells reach another part of the body, they may grow and form another tumour. This is called a secondary cancer or a metastasis.

Some types of cancer start from blood cells. Abnormal cells can build up in the blood, and sometimes the bone marrow. This is where blood cells are made. These types of cancer are sometimes called blood cancers. 

Lifestyle and cancer

In the UK, around 360,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year. We know there are over 200 different types of cancer, but we do not know all the causes.

But we do know about the possible risk factors that can affect your risk of developing cancer. Some people make lifestyle changes to try and reduce this risk. Changes can include:

  • stopping smoking
  • eating a healthy diet
  • being physically active
  • keeping to a healthy weight
  • following recommended alcohol guidelines.