Support Metastatic Disease
Cancer has a great impact on your life, and the lives of your loved ones. It can cause feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, or even depression. Undergoing treatment for cancer is intense and will affect your work and social life. To find support, approach your doctor or nurse. They will be able to give you contact information about patient organizations or others who can help you with psychological support, or practical matters such as financial advice.
Preparing for a consultation
Preparing for a consultation can be very useful. It will help you and your doctor to better address your questions and concerns. Here are some things you can try:
- Write down the questions you would like to ask the doctor. This will help you remember things that you want to ask. Writing down questions can also help you organize your thoughts
- If you can, take someone with you to the visit. It is good to have someone to discuss what the doctor said and you probably remember different things
- Ask for information about your specific type of cancer
- Ask about your treatment options
- Find out what the possible side effects of treatment are and how you can cope with them
- If the doctor uses words you do not understand, ask for an explanation
- Tell your doctor what medicine you take and if you take any alternative medicine. Some of these medicines can affect the treatment
After the consultation you can:
- Search the Internet or go to the library for more information about your cancer. Be aware that not all the information you see online is of good quality. Your doctor, or your health care team, can point you to reliable websites
- Contact a patient organization, they can offer support and information
- Discuss with your health care team the possible financial consequences of your treatment. They might be able to direct you to people or places where you can get advice about your economic situation or even financial help
- If you want, you should ask for a second opinion from another specialist
Support after surgery
In the first days or weeks after surgery you may need help with everyday activities. If you can, ask family, friends, or neighbours to help you with things like buying and carrying home food, cooking, cleaning, washing, and gardening. You can also ask your health care team for information about professional home care.
Dealing with the side effects of drug treatment
If you need drug treatment for kidney cancer, you will experience unpleasant side effects. The side effects are common and management includes therapies to relieve them. It is important that you tell the doctor about the side effects you have. Write down your symptoms every day and try to describe them as precisely as possible. Note how often they occur and how much they affect your daily life. In some cases temporary treatment interruption, dose modification, or stopping the treatment can be considered.
It is common that you experience fatigue. This means you feel more tired than usual, you are out of energy, have trouble concentrating, and it doesn’t get better after you sleep.
If you experience fatigue, it may help to:
- Write down things that give you energy, and give them priority during the day or week
- Get help with household tasks like washing, cleaning, or gardening
- Take short naps several times during the day
- Try to be as active as you can. A short walk every day is better than a long walk once a week
- When planning social activities like a trip or a visit, keep in mind you may need time to rest during the day. Discuss this with your family, friends, or caregiver so that you can plan ahead. It is important to tell them when you are feeling tired
- Discuss with your doctor if you plan to travel outside of your country. The doctor can give you advice about vaccinations or possible restrictions on certain medicines. Make sure to also check your travel insurance
Other common side effects include nausea, diarrhoea, high blood pressure, skin and mouth issues, and taste alterations. Some things you can do to cope are listed below.
During treatment, you may experience nausea caused by the therapy, tumour growth, or anxiety about your prognosis. The doctor can prescribe medicine to reduce the nausea.
It may also help if you:
- Eat smaller meals but eat more often throughout the day to make sure you still get enough nutrition
- Eat snacks
- Drink smaller amounts but drink more often to stay hydrated
- Try cold dishes if hot meals make you nauseous
- Ask someone to cook for you, if possible
Another common side effect of the treatment is diarrhoea. Diarrhoea can lead to dehydration and it is important to:
- Drink more than usual
- Avoid food that you think makes the diarrhoea worse
- Keep the anal area clean to prevent irritation
- Use moisturizer if you have anal irritation
- Ask the doctor to prescribe medicine to prevent diarrhoea
You may also experience a mild to moderate raise in your blood pressure, especially early on in your treatment. This is normal and can be managed with standard therapy. Your doctor will advise you if you need to monitor your blood pressure, and how often. If you feel dizzy or have a headache, let your doctor know as soon as possible.
Another possible side effect of drug therapy is dry skin or blisters on your hands and feet. To care for your skin you can:
- Use moisturizer to get your skin soft
- Wear loose-fitting shoes
- Gently pat your skin dry after bathing or washing
- Avoid sun exposure
- Use sunscreen
- Wear gloves when you do things like gardening because they may damage the skin in your hands
- Avoid cleaning products with strong chemicals
- Avoid the sauna
The surface in your mouth can get red and irritated during treatment. You can feel pain when you eat or when you brush your teeth. To prevent infections, it is important to make sure your mouth and teeth are clean. Make sure you:
- Brush your teeth carefully twice a day
- Use a soft toothbrush
- Use a mild toothpaste
Drug therapy may also cause changes in how food tastes to you. You may even begin to dislike certain foods you liked before. The best way to figure out what food you like is to try different things:
- Drink water before you eat to neutralize your taste
- If red meat tastes strange try white meat or fish, or the other way around
- If hot food tastes strange try it cold, or the other way around
- Try using more spices, or try using less
- Use a plastic fork and knife if the food tastes of metal
It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle during treatment. Try to get physical exercise regularly. Find an activity that you enjoy doing. If you have doubts about what you can do ask your doctor to refer you to a physiotherapist.
Try to eat a balanced diet with a mix of vegetables, fruit and dairy. Also include starchy food like bread and potatoes, rice or pasta, and protein-rich food like meat, fish, eggs or legumes. Try to eat less sugar, salt, and fatty food. If you have any questions ask your doctor to refer you to a dietician.
During treatment you may worry about your prognosis, the impact of cancer on your financial situation, or other issues.
If you feel the need to have someone to talk to, you can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist. A patient organization can also offer support.
Discuss with your health care team the possible financial consequences of your treatment. They might be able to direct you to people or places where you can get advice about your economic situation or even financial help. They can also help you find legal advice about your will and related matters.
Surgery and cancer treatment can affect your sexuality. For example, men may experience erectile dysfunction as a side effect of antiangiogenic therapy. Feelings of depression and fatigue can also have a negative effect on your sexual life. It is important that you talk to your partner about your feelings. There are many ways in which you can be intimate. If you do not want to be sexually active, be near each other, touch each other, give and take hugs, and just sit or lay down close to each other.
A cancer diagnosis can make you look at life in a different way and you may realize you now have different priorities. This will affect your work or relationships and can make you feel disoriented and uncertain. Talk to family, friends, or your spiritual advisor about your feelings and wishes. If you don’t feel comfortable addressing these issues with those close to you, you can ask your health care team for a referral to a psychologist. The psychologist can give you the tools to deal with these feelings.
Support for family and friends
A cancer diagnosis not only affects the patient, but also the people around them. As a loved one, you can offer support in many different ways. Sometimes you can help with practical things like laundry, gardening, or grocery shopping.
It may also be helpful to go to the doctor together. You could offer to drive to the visit or help formulate questions to ask during consultation. Being there for the consult can also be good. You may remember different things or focus on other details, which you can later discuss together. You could also ask the doctor how the treatment may impact your lives in terms of caregiving and psychological effects.
The diagnosis and treatment can be very emotional for everybody involved. Cancer treatment is intense and your life may change suddenly. Questions about prognosis, effects of the treatment, and death will come up. As a friend or a loved one you can be there and listen. You don’t need to have the answers.
If you feel you need somebody to talk to, approach your family doctor or the medical team to get support. Patient organizations also offer support for family members or friends of people who have been diagnosed with cancer.
These organizations can also help with more practical matters such as financial support and legal advice.