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?

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.