Emotions and Cancer
Caring for someone with cancer
You may be reading this information because you are caring for someone with cancer. What this means for you will vary depending on the situation. Being a carer can bring a sense of satisfaction, but it can also be challenging and stressful.
It is important to look after your own physical and emotional wellbeing. Give yourself some time out and share your concerns with somebody neutral such as a counsellor or your doctor, or try calling Cancer Council 13 11 20. There is a wide range of support available to help you with the practical and emotional aspects of your caring role.
Support services – Support services such as Meals on Wheels, home help or visiting nurses can help you in your caring role. You can find local services, as well as information and resources, through the Carer Gateway. Call 1800 422 737 or visit carergateway.gov.au.
Support groups and programs – Many cancer support groups and cancer education programs are open to carers as well as to people with cancer. Support groups and programs offer the chance to share experiences and ways of coping.
Carers Associations – Carers Australia provides information and advocacy for carers.
Cancer Council – You can call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Ways carers can help
If you are caring for someone with cancer, there are many ways to show your concern. You can offer both emotional and practical support.
Offer to go with them to appointments – You can join in the discussion, take notes or simply listen.
Don’t be afraid to say nothing – The silence might feel awkward, but simply being close to the person or holding their hand also shows you care and provides comfort.
Try not to do too much or take over – Give the person the opportunity to do things for themselves. This can help them maintain a sense of normality and independence. They may appreciate the chance to be useful and connected to activities they enjoy, such as reading to kids or doing online shopping, even if they can’t do as much physically.
Focus on other things- Make time to watch your favourite sport or TV show together, play a game of cards or a board game, or go on an outing together.
Look after yourself- Give yourself time to rest, as well as time away from the person with cancer. They probably would also appreciate some time alone. Don’t underestimate the emotional impact of supporting someone through cancer – you need to look after your own health if you’re going to give support.
Provide practical help – You could cook a meal, help with the house or garden, take the kids to school or offer to drive the person to appointments. But remember the carer doesn’t have to do it all – accept offers of help from family and friends.
Become informed – Learn about the cancer and its treatment. This will help you understand what the person is facing, but hold off on offering your opinion unless they ask you for it.
Talk honestly about your feelings – Try not to change the subject if a conversation gets uncomfortable. Instead, share how you feel and respect each other’s feelings .
Be around – Your presence can help them feel less isolated and lets them know you care. If you are not there in person, check in by phone, text or email.
Listen to their concerns – Try to understand the person’s feelings and their perspective about treatment, side effects, finances and the future.
This information is reviewed by
This information was last reviewed November 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Anne Burke, Co-Director, Psychology and Allied Health Lead, Cancer, Central Adelaide Local Health Network and The University of Adelaide, SA; Hannah Chen, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland; Hazel Everett, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Services, St John of God Subiaco Hospital, WA; Shona Gates, Senior Social Worker, North West Cancer Centre, TAS; Dr Jemma Gilchrist, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Mind My Health and Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead, NSW; Sandra Hodge, Consumer; Dr Michael Murphy, Psychiatrist and Clinician Researcher, Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Alesha Thai, Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Alan White, Consumer.