Adjusting to the Physical Effects of Treatment

Helping your adjustment to these changes

It’ OK to not be OK with these effects. You may need more time to adapt and
accommodate to them.

Ask for advice and more information from your Clinical Nurse Specialist, hospital doctor or GP. They may not be aware of the impact of these effects, but might have some helpful advice and suggestions if you talk about your concerns.

These organisations’ websites have lots of good information and tips for managing these effects:

Support for specific difficulties

As time goes on, you might feel that more specific information or advice would be helpful. Specific cancers or treatments have particular effects to adjust to, and patient support groups can help reduce the feeling of isolation that comes with living with these effects. Organisations and group members often give excellent tips about how to adjust to some of the effects, and we recommend the groups listed below. However, it may not always be helpful to use patient chat-rooms which can be found on social media: these can often contain poor or inaccurate information.

These lists are not yet complete, and we will be updating this section in the future to include information about more cancer sites and effects.

These websites are devoted to helping people find strategies to manage pain in everyday life:

  • Cancer Research UK – Information to help understand what is causing the pain and all the ways of managing and treating it.
  • Pain Toolkit – Gives a range of non-medical suggestions for managing and living with pain.
  • Live Well with Pain – Gives a range of non-medical suggestions for managing and living with pain.

Psychological interventions may help to address confidence and adjustment to changed appearance.

These organisations and websites are devoted to helping people find strategies to adjust to changed appearance:

  • Breast Cancer Care now A charity helping people live with the consequences of breast cancer and its treatment
  • Changing Faces – A charity helping people who live with visible difference

You may find it difficult to talk to anyone in the medical or nursing team about sexual problems after cancer, but staff are aware that these difficulties occur, and are often able to given straightforward advice or treatment.

If your doctor or clinical nurse specialist doesn’t ask you about this directly, don’t feel embarrassed about bringing the subject up and asking for help.

A number of physical effects of any cancer and treatment can directly affect sexual activity for anyone, including:

  • Pain
  • Numbness or loss of sensation in the skin
  • Menopausal effects
  • Loss of fertility
  • Lymphodema
  • Fatigue
  • Low mood
  • Anxiety or fear about resuming sex

Additionally, some cancers have very direct effects on sexual activity:

  • Prostate or urinary cancers and their treatment can affect a man’s sexual interest, or the ability to have an erection or maintain an erection for sex. Prostate Cancer UK has information and advice.
  • Testicular cancer can have a real effect on feelings of self-esteem and can also affect testosterone levels. Testicular Cancer UK and Orchid-Cancer both have information and advice.
  • Breast cancer can have major effects on how you feel about your body, self-esteem and sexuality. Breast Cancer Care now has information and advice.
  • Gynaecological cancers may have an impact on sexual interest and activity.
    Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has information and advice.

Many people experience a disturbance in bowel function during pelvic radiotherapy, such as diarrhoea and/or constipation. These symptoms usually settle following the end of treatment, but for some people the effects can be longer lasting.

These symptoms can affect people’s lives in many ways. Help and advice is available and the following organisations can help point you in the right direction:

Specialised help

As time goes on, if you feel you are still struggling, you may need more specialised help to enable this adjustment process.

If it is causing significant distress (Wellbeing Self Evaluation Tool, Understanding my psychological needs) discuss a referral to psychological therapy services with your CNS/doctor etc.

Further support and help:

The advice on these pages is designed to help you prepare for the treatment ahead and support you through to recovery.

If you need further advice and support please discuss this with your key worker or healthcare professional.

  • Cardiff and Vale University Health Board Cancer support line:
    02920 745655  (9:00am to 12:30pm and 1:30pm to 4:00pm)
  • Macmillan Cancer Support:
    0808 808 00 00
  • Maggie’s Cardiff:
    029 2240 8024
  • Tenovus Cancer Care:
    0808 808 1010
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