If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you may be feeling scared, confused, overwhelmed or even angry. It’s important to remember that there are people all around you who can help. The York Against Cancer team is here to answer your questions, and we can also connect you with dedicated medical professionals at your local hospital.
You may need to have further tests and consultations to determine what stage your cancer is at. For example, you may need a biopsy, or a scan to see if tumours have spread to other organs.
Your treatment will start within 31 days of diagnosis and confirming that you want treatment, or within 62 days of a GP referral.
Surgery is a common option for many cancers such as breast or bladder cancer, where tumours are removed. Often, this is followed up with radiotherapy or chemotherapy, to remove any remaining cells or lessen the risk of cells coming back.
Surgery is usually quite quick, for example, breast cancer surgery takes 15 to 40 minutes. It is performed under general anaesthetic, and your doctor will inform you of the risks, based on:
Your general physical health
Reactions to anaesthesia
The complexity of the surgery.
Recovery from surgery could be anything from a few days up to a few weeks, depending on how complex your surgery was. There may also be adjustments to make, for example:
What to expect after breast cancer surgery
If you’ve had a full or double mastectomy, you may be experiencing body confidence issues as you adjust. Some patients opt to have a prosthetic breast, for example. You can ask your doctor about this, along with any other personal questions, in confidence. Whatever your circumstances, our complementary therapies and counselling sessions can help you get your confidence back.
What to expect after urological or bowel surgery
Again, in cases where an entire organ is removed, such as the bladder, or even part of the bowel, this can be life-changing. Your multi-disciplinary team will talk you through how to adjust to these changes, for example, living with a catheter or colostomy bag.
Please remember that everybody’s circumstances are different, and you will all have different recovery rates. You may feel tired and ‘out of sorts’ for some weeks, or your mental health may be affected, particularly if you need to adjust to new changes. Our counselling teams can help you through this difficult phase.
Chemotherapy involves several sessions of hospital visits, during which drugs are injected or given to you as a tablet to fight cancer cells. As these drugs attack all cells (but only healthy cells return), chemotherapy can take its toll on the body. It may take a while for you to feel well again.
Your doctor will advise whether or not this is a good idea depending on your age, the stage of cancer, and your general health. Chemotherapy can be offered on its own, or often after or before surgery to kill additional cells.
Chemotherapy may cause hair loss, so it’s important to discuss this with your doctor if your confidence is suffering, particularly if you’ve had surgery that affects your appearance, like a mastectomy.
Like chemotherapy for all cancers, you should try to prepare yourself mentally and physically. Keep your house stocked up with supplies, as you may feel too unwell to do so afterwards. Arrange travel and discuss time off work. We can offer you benefits and welfare guidance if you need it.
Again, chemotherapy affects everybody differently depending on their strength and physical health. What’s important to remember is that it’s very effective, and is over within a few weeks. Doctors may keep you on an ‘active monitoring’ list, particularly for slow-moving cancers or lower-risk stages of prostate cancer.
Radiotherapy involves targeting high-energy x-rays at the cancer site, either internally or externally. It is common on cancers such as breast and prostate, and can also be used in conjunction with chemotherapy.
Unlike surgery, you can usually go home the same day, and there is usually no need for anaesthetic. Like chemotherapy, radiotherapy appointments take place at intervals over a few weeks, and they usually take no longer than 10 minutes.
After your last radiotherapy sessions, you can expect side effects to last for a few weeks, usually peaking at two weeks. There may be some more specific side effects depending on where you had the treatment.
What to expect after radiation treatment for prostate cancer
Radiotherapy may affect your sperm production, so your doctor will talk you through your options if you don’t have children but would like to. Likewise, you may notice some changes to your bowel or urinary habits, so it’s best to discuss these with your doctors to avoid embarrassment.
Here with you throughout your treatment
At York Against Cancer, we understand that you will be going through a lot of changes during your treatment – both mental and physical. We are on-hand to help you access:
Advice and support
Medical information from our trusted teams at York and Scarborough Hospitals