Preparing for cancer treatment

Getting a diagnosis of cancer can be a shock, but there are things you can do to prepare yourself for the treatment ahead. Even small steps to prepare can help you feel more in control and ease uncertainty and anxiety.

Whether you will be having chemotherapy or radiotherapy, we’ve set out things you can do to help you prepare for your treatment.

Have a clear treatment plan

This is the most important point. Make sure you and your cancer care team fully understand each other and what your treatment will involve.

Ask them:

  • How long is the treatment? 
  • What are the likely side effects and possible complications? 
  • What’s your likely outcome?

Ask as many questions as you want as your doctor will understand your concerns and will want you to feel confident. Take your partner or friend with you to appointments so they can take notes and help you remember the information you have been given.

If you are uncertain about the recommended treatment, you can get a second opinion. You will not upset your doctor by doing this as they will understand that you need reassurance. Once you are confident of the treatment plan, you can give your informed consent.

Plan your aftercare

Whichever treatment you have, you won’t feel at your best during the recovery period. It’s good to plan ahead so that you don’t have to worry about practical things such as transport to the hospital, who will do the school run or walk the dog, or smaller things such as reaching for a book or getting a drink.

Involve family and friends

Involve your family and friends in your plans as they will be eager to help you. Don’t feel shy about asking them — consider if the situations were reversed and how you would want to help. Give each of them a specific task, such as dog walking or shopping.

Prepare your home

Once you are back at home you will need somewhere comfortable to recover — either your bedroom or living room. Make some practical adjustments in advance:

Make sure essentials are easy to reach

  • Can you easily access food and drinks?
  • Do you have books and your favourite magazines to hand?
  • Do you have easy access to the radio, television or some music?
  • Do you have somewhere to charge your laptop and mobile phone?
  • Is your medication safely stored close by?

Make yourself comfortable

  • Do you have enough cushions and spare bed linen?
  • Have you got a comfy blanket or throw in case you feel cold?                                       
  • Surround yourself with things you’ll enjoy looking at, such as your favourite paintings, photographs and a vase of fresh flowers

Prepare your body for cancer treatment

Whether you have days or weeks before beginning your treatment, it’s important to focus on your health — both mentally and physically. How you feel as you begin treatment will affect how you feel during it.

Try to eat a balanced diet and exercise gently as these will help maintain your quality of life. This is important for all stages and types of cancer. If you need guidance, talk with a therapist, nutritionist or physical therapist.

If you take any over-the-counter or herbal medicines, tell your doctor in advance, as these could affect your treatment.

How can cancer treatment affect you physically?

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can both cause weight loss, hair loss and skin rashes. It’s best to spend some time thinking over how you’d respond to these. Talking things over with someone who has successfully completed similar treatment is a good way to get practical tips. Comfortable clothing such as tracksuits are ideal and wearing a headscarf is a good way to feel more confident when dealing with hair loss.

Having treatment for cancer can be a challenging time for you, but by preparing yourself in advance you can face it with greater confidence and make your recovery as comfortable as possible.

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.