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Living With Cancer: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

People with cancer are living longer and better than ever. Everyone deals with cancer differently. What is important to you may change based on your experiences. You may appreciate your life, family, and friends more. But you also may need to adapt to the changes that cancer causes. Some of the changes, such as hair loss, are temporary. Others, like the loss of a breast or other organ, are permanent.

Getting back to normal can be a challenge. Allow yourself time to adjust. A positive attitude and a strong, fighting spirit can help you cope. You may come back stronger than ever. But you may not be able to do everything you did before cancer. If you notice changes in your ability to function, talk to your doctor about them.

You may be afraid that your cancer will return. But a healthy diet, regular exercise, and an end to unhealthy habits like smoking can improve your health.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Focus on activities that help you cope with cancer treatment.
    • Your daily routine may change during treatment. You may not have the energy you normally do. Rest when you need to.
    • Your roles and family duties may change. This can cause stress and anger in your family. Talk openly with your family about ways to work together.
    • Talking about your cancer may help. Some relationships may be strained. But some may get stronger. Try to keep in contact with loved ones, and tell them how they can help or understand you.
    • You may lose interest in sex or be too tired for it. Some cancers may make sex painful. Talk to your doctor about ways to improve sex if it is important to you.
    • Accept that you may need help with shopping, yard work, or other tasks. Asking for help does not mean you are weak or helpless. Hire someone to help if you can afford it.
    • You may find it hard to deal with bills and household finances. Ask a family member or friend to help. A social worker or other social service expert may be able to help with your finances.
    • The Canadian Cancer Society also has many helpful resources for cancer survivors. You can contact them at 1-888-939-3333 or visit their website at
  • Be aware that cancer treatment can change the way you look. You may have scars, hair loss, and weight changes.
    • You may be angry, frustrated, or disappointed after cancer surgery or during treatment for cancer. These can be common reactions. Talk to a counsellor if you need help coping with your feelings.
    • You may have wounds or skin problems from the surgery. You may have scars from a tumour or side effects from radiation. Ask your doctor what to expect from treatment. This can help you prepare for any side effects. Your doctor can also help you find treatments to help you heal.
    • Surgery can remove scars or rebuild a part of the body you had removed. Your provincial health plan or private insurance may cover some of this.
    • Wearing a wig, scarf, or hat can help you cope with hair loss.
    • Staying active can help you feel good about the way you look. Try to keep up your appearance as much as possible. It will help your morale. Pamper yourself. Get a manicure or pedicure, or take a long, relaxing bath.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. This can improve the way you feel. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.