Hesperian Health Guides

If You Have Cancer

Finding out you have cancer is frightening to say the least. But there are some things you can do to help fight the cancer and feel better.

  • If you think you have cancer, try to find a doctor or clinic that has experience with cancer. You may need more than 1 test to know for sure.
  • If you are told you have cancer, ask the doctor about the disease. What happens to most people who have this type of cancer? What can you do to live longer or survive the cancer?
  • Get treatment quickly. Many cancers can be successfully treated when caught early. What choices do you have about treatment? What are the side effects of the treatments?
  • Talk to others who have cancer. They often have helpful advice and can be understanding listeners especially if they have had your kind of cancer and are doing well.
  • Do not believe rumors or stories uninformed friends and family tell you. They are often untrue.
  • Eating nutritious food keeps you stronger.
  • Exercise daily — even a short walk. Find ways to relax, such as yoga, meditation, or just spending a few minutes quietly by yourself.
  • Find people who can help you. Cancer and its treatments can cause tiredness, nausea, and pain. Cancers can be disabling and make it hard to get around or work. A community health worker may know of helpful resources.

Promoting general health and well-being must be central to any cancer treatment.

Learning you have cancer, undergoing treatment, and accepting that you are sick can be very difficult emotionally. Feelings of hopelessness or worry are normal. Care for the mental and emotional parts of being sick are just as important as any physical or drug treatment. There are many ways to get this help.

people eating together.
  • Spend time with loved ones.
  • Talk about your feelings and fears with someone you trust.
  • Pray or participate in activities with your religious group.
  • Continue activities that you enjoy.
  • Relax with music, meditation, and gentle exercise.

For more on how to help with feelings of depression or anxiety, see Mental Health (in development).

This page was updated:25 Nov 2019