I am starting or having treatment

Starting cancer treatment can be completely overwhelming with lots of choices to be made and new information to take on board. We want to help to make things a little easier for you by explaining as much as we can.

When you receive a diagnosis there is often fear and uncertainty about what may or may not happen. Many people feel sad, frightened, out of control and concerned for their future. All of this is natural. It feels like this is never going to change, but in time, and with support, it will.

What to expect

Following your initial diagnosis, you may need to have further tests and consultations to determine the stage and grade of your tumour and this will be done as soon as possible so that if you choose to go ahead with treatment, it can start promptly.

If you were referred urgently by your GP your hospital team will hope to start treatment;

  • Within 31 days of you being diagnosed, and a decision to start treatment, or
  • Within 62 days of the referral from the GP (whichever is sooner)

How to make sense of your hospital appointments

Your hospital appointments are a chance to discuss any concerns or worries you may have about everything ahead.  It often helps to plan any questions you may have and write them down. Keeping notes may also be useful to you and your family.

If you feel unsure or need support for those around you it’s fine to take someone along to your appointments with you. Remember, your team is there to help you. They can help you to make sense of your diagnosis and the treatments ahead. They will also let you know about local and national support available to you and your family.

Your health care team

Your Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Once you have received a cancer diagnosis you will be signposted to support network. You will be assigned a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) who is trained to deal specifically with your type of cancer and they will become your main point of contact throughout your treatment in the hospital.

Your Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT)

Your CNS is a really important part of a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) which meets regularly to discuss your care. Your MDT is made up of a range of health care professionals from radiologists, consultants, pathologists – specialists involved in your treatment process.

How is cancer usually treated?

Be aware that not all cancers need treatment straightaway. Some types are very slow growing and are unlikely to cause problems for many years. This means that the hospital team will keep you under close monitoring. If your situation changes, they will review the treatment options, and perhaps change their plans and start treatment.

The aim of cancer treatment is to cure the cancer, control tumour growth or to relieve symptoms. The type of treatment offered to you will depend upon the cancer itself, on your own situation and on the best treatment options available to you.

These treatments may include one or more of the following;

  • Surgery – the cancer is surgically removed
  • Chemotherapy – anti cancer medication is used to destroy the cancer cells. This is sometimes called cytotoxic drugs.
  • Radiotherapy – high energy x-rays are used to destroy the cancer cells. This can be used to shrink a tumour or to relieve symptoms. If your cancer treatment involves radiotherapy, you will be able to choose to have your treatment at either St James’s University Hospital Leeds or at The Queen’s Centre Castle Hill Hospital in Hull. More information about the two different hospitals can be found at mycancertreatment.nhs.uk
    If you choose to have your radiotherapy treatment at St James’s Hospital in Leeds, our minibus service may be able to help you.
  • Hormonal therapies – Treatments that change the hormones in your body. These are only suitable for certain cancers.
  • Targeted therapies – these are also called biological therapies. These interfere with the way that the cancer cells grow.

For more information about treatment types you can visit the Macmillan Cancer Support website treatment page 

It is important to discuss the treatment fully with your medical team. To make a decision you’ll need to know how the treatment may affect you. It may help you to ask more questions about side effects, the help you may need to get through the treatment and what the effectiveness is likely to be.

Clinical Trials

Your healthcare team may discuss a clinical trial with you. Clinical trials can help to find new treatments for cancer in the future.

To find out about current clinical trials the Cancer Research UK website is helpful or visit the UK Clinical Trials Gateway website which offers useful guidance on how trials work and can help connect you to researchers running trials you might be interested in. 

Coping with the impact of cancer

Side effects of Treatment

Different types of cancer treatment can cause different side effects, for individuals and not for others. They can often be managed well during treatment and if you are worried, do talk to your healthcare team.  Many side effects stop once the treatment ends. Some side effects are more long term. Your health care team will give you more information about how this may affect you and how to manage them longer term. Some side effects can continue over time or appear in the longer term and some will diminish over time.