5 mins. read

What to do when you are newly diagnosed with cancer

Perci Professional and cancer specialist nurse Chloe Cruickshank gives simple pre-treatment advice for the early days after a cancer diagnosis.

An image of water splashing. It is important to stay hydrated and practise good sleep hygiene when preparing for cancer treatment

Key takeaways

  • Seek tailored information from credible sources (eg. your Cancer Nurse Specialist), at the time you need it. Avoid Dr. Google.
  • Ask your cancer team which cancer charities will be most relevant to you.
  • Sleep and hydration are important. If you can create good habits prior to your treatment beginning you will be in a better place when it begins.

Drawing on her experience as a cancer specialist nurse, Perci Professional Chloe Cruickshank talks about the days after a new cancer diagnosis and the most important things to do at this time.

The initial diagnosis of cancer is full of emotions. In the days following, it is normal to feel overwhelmed and anxious at the uncertainty of facing anti-cancer treatment. Many people describe being flooded with support and offerings of advice from family and friends which, although thoughtful, can in itself feel overwhelming too. 

Seek the information you need from credible sources at the time in which you need to do something with it.

Chloe Cruikshank, Perci cancer specialist nurse

My experience of providing specialist support to people with a new cancer diagnosis is that they have multiple questions related to understanding their treatment, the side-effects and how they can be best informed.

The good news is you don’t need to become an expert of your own health overnight or even by the end of your treatment, if you don’t want to. At this early point I suggest peeling everything back to basics. Seek the information needed from credible sources at the time which you need to do something with it.

The internet is a melting pot of support for people living with cancer, so it’s very important you prioritise tailored, specific advice. This is something your cancer nurse specialist, or key worker, will be essential in signposting you to. 

Three simple tips for those newly diagnosed with cancer

An image of hands holding. Your CNS is there to support you
Identify your clinical point of contact; they will guide you and answer questions

My advice to people recently diagnosed is to keep things simple, with the three most important things being:

1. Identify your key point of contact

Identify who your clinical point of contact is throughout your treatment (this is likely to be a cancer nurse specialist (CNS)).

This person will be able to guide you through what to expect and be able to answer all of your questions, specifically tailored to your diagnosis and treatment plan. They’ll also be well-positioned to predict what information you need to know and when at every point, including life after cancer treatment. 

Your CNS will be keen to get to know you and the things that are important in your life outside of treatment, while also understanding how treatment may affect the things that are important to you. This will in turn allow them to predict what may or may not be helpful to alleviate any anxiety, emotional stress or physical symptoms related to your diagnosis and treatment.

Following this stage, you may want to consider telling your employer. Whilst you don’t have to make them aware of your diagnosis, there are many benefits to doing so and it can ease any immediate concerns you may have about job security. Find out more about how to tell your employer about your cancer diagnosis.

2. Ask which cancer charities are relevant to you

While there are numerous charities, websites and forums available at your fingertips, it can feel impossible to know where to start.

Ask your medical team what dedicated cancer charities are available for you to engage with and explore your information needs safely with your key worker or CNS.

These platforms provide simple yet highly specialist information about the type of cancer you have been diagnosed with. Some will have forums that are carefully moderated to ensure information is not misleading or confusing. I advise people to approach these with some caution and remember each situation is highly unique and no two cancers will be or treated the same.

3. Practise good health habits

Most importantly, go easy on yourself. A new cancer diagnosis provokes a vast array of emotions and this is perfectly natural and expected. My key tips to help get you through the period of time between diagnosis and treatment is to:

  • Practice good sleep hygiene, aiming for 7-8 hours per night.
  • Keep yourself well hydrated with around 2-3 litres of water a day. This increases cell repair and prevents dehydration which can cause loss of concentration and dizziness, both of which can make the day-to-day feel more challenging.
  • Get into good habits before treatment which will hopefully help you continue with them beyond the treatment phase.

Find out more about Chloe Cruikshank and her availability for online 1-2-1 appointments where you can get advice and support with your diagnosis. Or take a look at how Perci Health can help you to cope with cancer with informative resources and bespoke guidance from leading experts by signing up for a Perci Health account.

While we have ensured that every article is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to one of our healthcare professionals or your primary healthcare team.