Macmillan's cancer information

This blog will give you regular, high-quality information about cancer. We hope you find it useful. And if there's any topic you'd like us to blog about, just let us know.

Latest Entries
  • Coping with a rare cancer

    Being diagnosed with cancer is one of the scariest, most isolating experiences most people will ever go through. Following any cancer diagnosis, you might feel very alone, like nobody understands what you’re facing.  But if you’ve been diagnosed with a rare cancer, these feelings of isolation can be even more difficult.  This blog contains some tips for coping with a rare cancer, which we hope will help.

    1. Connect with others

    You can use our online community to talk to others who also have cancer. There are lots of groups, and many of them are for specific cancer types, including some rarer cancers.

    Talking can help you let out your fears and worries and be honest about how you’re feeling with those who understand. Even if they don’t have exactly the same cancer as you, talking to someone who’s going through something similar can be helpful.

    2. Get the information you need

    We have lots of cancer information on our website, including web pages about some rarer cancers. Use the search function on our website to search for your cancer type, or have a look in our cancer types A-Z. You can also find out more about the treatment you’re having and about living with and after cancer. If you can’t find the information you need on our website, call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 or email us, and one of our nurses will be able to help.

    3. Ask questions

    Your cancer doctor or nurse should be able to give you information about your type of cancer. Don’t be afraid to ask them anything you need to. Writing down any questions you think of in a notebook can help you remember to ask them during appointments. You can write down the answers too – or ask someone else to do that for you during your hospital visit.

    You could also ask your cancer doctor or nurse if they can put you in touch with other people who have the same type of cancer as you.

    Rare cancers organisations

    The Rarer Cancers Foundation offers support and information to people with rare and less common cancers. They also raisee awareness and campaign on behalf of people with rarer cancers.  

    Cancer.Net has an organisation search on its website, where you can select your particular condition and find organisations that can give you support.


    We hope the information in this blog has helped you find the support you need. We’re here for everyone affected by cancer – those diagnosed, relatives, friends, and colleagues – so please get in touch if you need information or support.

    What do you think of this blog? Whether you're a regular reader or not, please tell us what you think by answering just 8 questions, and help us make this blog more interesting and useful.

    Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo

  • Running the London Marathon for Macmillan

    Hi readers! I'm Abi. I'm an Editor in Macmillan's Cancer Information Development team and I also manage this blog. But recently, I’ve been doing my bit for Macmillan outside of work too, by taking part in the London Marathon – did anyone else take part in this event yesterday? Share your photos on Facebook and Twitter and make sure you tag Macmillan!

    Why the marathon?

    There are a few reasons why I chose to run my first ever marathon (and probably my last!) for Macmillan. I do enjoy volunteering and fundraising, but I’d never done anything for Macmillan before. And since working here, I’ve seen first-hand the great work that Macmillan does and how much it’s needed. I also have many close friends who have been affected by cancer in some way. Some of my friends have had treatment for cancer in the past, or are undergoing treatment right now.

    I wanted to do something to help. And what better way than to take part in a physical challenge like the marathon – it’s a positive experience and a fun event, it brings people together, it raises a tonne of money and it would encourage me to get fit and do some exercise. It’s an all-round winner. So I applied for a charity place with Macmillan, and to my surprise was offered one! Every single person that I know who’s been affected by cancer is part of the reason why I filled out that application form. And I thought of all of them while I was running.

    Obviously not everyone can take part in a marathon, but there are loads of ways you can fundraise for Macmillan – from walks, runs and treks to social events and simply hosting a ‘Night In’. If you do fancy the London Marathon next year, you can apply for a charity place with Macmillan. Or visit on 22 April for a general ballot place, which you can still use to fundraise for Macmillan.

    How it went

    Well, the big day for all the 36,000 marathon runners of 2014 was yesterday. The weather was gorgeous and the crowd was superb. The atmosphere was buzzing and everyone was smiling (apart from some of the runners!)

    At mile 13 I was just excited to see my sister!...

    I was also excited to be given those all-important jelly babies!...

    And I could not have made it through the course without these fantastic guys cheering us all on…

    The importance of the crowd

    I honestly don’t think I could have run 26 miles if it wasn’t for the crowd. From the moment we set off from Greenwich Park, heading towards the ‘Mile 1’ marker, the crowd were there for us. They cheered, handed out jelly babies, gave us high-fives and even shouted your name if you had it printed on your top. In the residential areas, families were gathered in their front gardens to watch and support us, people were hanging out of their windows waving and cheering, and we went past lots of live bands who’d come out to play music as we passed. It was like a street festival along some parts of the course. The drums were especially motivating! The pubs were all getting involved too, and there was a real community feel to it all. We even went past a fire station where they’d got a fire engine out and were hosing down the runners! – it was getting pretty hot as morning turned to afternoon.

    If there’s any kind of fundraising event happening near you, I’d definitely recommend getting involved and going along to watch. It makes such a difference those taking part! And it seemed like it was a fun day out for the spectators too. During the marathon, I powered through the first 13 miles seemingly on just the energy of the crowd. It was amazing. Have a look at Macmillan’s upcoming events (including next year’s London Marathon – fancy it?!) and consider whether you’d like to go along and support an event. 

    The wall

    At miles 18–22 I think I experienced what they call ‘the wall’ (which I didn’t think would last quite so long!) It felt like my feet were glued to the floor at every step. At one point, three people overtook me in quick succession and I thought the breeze from them passing me would knock me over. But just as the tears started welling up, someone in the crowd shouted “Come on Abi – save face!” And so I kept going. I thought about all the money that my generous sponsors had given, and the fact that I’d chosen to run the marathon and no one had forced me to do it! I also thought about all my friends whose lives have been affected by cancer, and how this struggle to complete the run was nothing in comparison to that. For the last few miles, I just thought about why I was doing this – to raise money to help people living with cancer.


    Finally, at 15:09, after 4 hours and 46 minutes of running, I crossed the finish line. I had completed the London Marathon and raised £2,290.13 for Macmillan! So I was pretty chuffed (if a bit sore)!…

    Final thoughts

    I’m so glad I took part in this event, and I’d recommend it to anyone who feels able to do it. It takes training, but it's doable. And if you don’t fancy a marathon, there are so many other ways you can get involved and do your bit.

    If you want to donate to Macmillan and support the life-changing work they do every day, you can do this easily at Or you can contribute to my marathon effort at

    I’ll finish by saying THANK YOU. Thank you to everyone who sponsored me. Thank you to my friends and family for supporting me through the training. Thank you to everyone who ran for Macmillan in this year’s marathon. And to anyone who sponsored a Macmillan runner. Thank you to everyone who came down to show their support at the event yesterday. And thank you to all the other charity runners raising money for other great causes. It was a really inspirational day and I hope anyone who attended or watched it on TV enjoyed it as much as I did!

  • Do you look after someone with cancer?

    You may say ‘I'm just being their husband, partner, daughter, friend ...' but if you're looking after someone with cancer – there is support available for you.

    If you look after someone with cancer you may not think of yourself as a carer. Yet the support you provide is vital: from helping with shopping, dressing, or taking them to the hospital, to being there when they need to talk. We know that without the right support, providing this care can have a big impact on you – physically, emotionally and financially, and can completely take over your life.

    Macmillan's video about those who look after someone with cancer

    We know that caring can be full of strong and sometimes difficult emotions, and you might be having good days and bad days.  This blog will clarify where you can get the support you may need. It also tells you how you can take part in the Carers Week Quest and join forces with others to campaign for more support for those looking after someone with cancer.

    Support if you're looking after someone with cancer

    Talking about your feelings and experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – can be healthy. Our online community is a fantastic place to do this. You can get support from people who know what you’re going through, which can be invaluable at a time like this. You can share your experiences, tips, or just get things off your chest. There’s a group specifically for carers. On our website you can also find support groups for carers that are local to you.

    Giving yourself a break is also important, whether it’s to enjoy a cup of tea, go for a walk to clear your head, or see a friend you may not have seen for a while. Having some time for yourself can help you to relax and feel able to cope better, which can also help the person you’re caring for. There are ways to have breaks while you’re caring. Perhaps you can arrange for someone to come in and sit with the person you care for, just for a few hours. If there isn’t a relative or friend who can do this, you may be able to get respite care or help from organisations.

    If you are a carer for a person with cancer, you are entitled to an assessment of your needs, called a Carer’s assessment. This may lead to you getting practical support such as equipment to help with caring tasks, help from a paid carer or respite care. You can also read about carers rights, and make sure you’re getting the help you’re entitled to, from your employer and your local council.

    If cancer has brought extra costs and you’re worried about money – there is support available. There are financial benefits and credits that you can get as a carer. You might also want to check whether the person you’re looking after is entitled to any financial help – there are lots of benefits out there.

    Remember, you’re not alone. From in-depth information to financial guidance and support with work issues, we provide a range of services to help you look after yourself when you’re looking after someone with cancer. If you have any questions or would like to find out more about the support we offer, visit or call us on 0808 808 00 00 (Mon–Fri, 9am–8pm). You can also come in to one of our information and support centres to speak to someone face-to-face. We’re here for you.

    Family and Friends Facebook chat

    On Wednesday 16 April from 12.00pm, join us on Facebook to chat to our nurse Bill and our Carers Support Programme Manager Charlotte.

    Photo of nurse Bill  Photo of Carers Support Programme Manager Charlotte

    Get involved in Carers Week (9–15 June)

    Carers Week logo

    From friendly, expert information and support events to social activities such as quiz nights and picnics, there’s lots going on during Carers Week – and you can get involved in the way that best suits you.

    If you’d like to hold your own event, that would be fantastic.

    Find out more at and join the Carers Week Quest.

    Macmillan can support you in holding an event by providing you with free awareness resources.

    Stand up for carers

    According to research by Macmillan, there are 1.1 million people caring for someone with cancer in the UK. Only 5% of them (five in a hundred) have had a Carer's assessment. As a result, carers are not getting the support they need. In England, nearly half (46%) of carers suffer with mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression. And one in eight (13%) say that caring has caused them physical health issues too. Without support, these carers are facing a crisis. This is why Macmillan has been fighting for more support for carers. Find out more about our Do you care? campaign.

    We hope this blog has helped you find the support you need. If you need any further help, please get in touch.

    What do you think of this blog? Whether you're a regular reader or not, please tell us what you think by answering just 8 questions, and help us make this blog more interesting and useful.

    Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo

  • Prostate cancer and higher risk groups

    You might have noticed that this month was Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. I think awareness events are great for getting people talking and thinking about cancer, but it’s also important to keep up the conversation. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. Over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. So we can’t afford to forget about it after the awareness month ends. It’s important for all men, especially those who have a higher risk, to be aware of its signs and symptoms.

    So who is at risk of prostate cancer? What are the main symptoms? And what can you do about prostate cancer? This blog hopes to answer these questions.

    Prostate cancer risk

    Although the causes of cancer of the prostate are still unknown, there are some risk factors that are known to increase a man’s chance of developing the disease.

    Prostate cancer in men over 50

    Age remains the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer almost always affects men over the age of 50, and the risk increases with age. The average age for men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is between 70 and 74 years old.  Younger men can be affected, but this is very rare.

    It’s thought that about half of all men over 50 may have cancer cells in their prostate, and 8 out of 10 men over 80 have a small area of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer differs from most cancers in that small areas of cancer within the prostate are very common and may stay dormant (inactive) for many years. Most of these cancers grow very slowly and are often unlikely to cause any problems. However, it’s important to catch prostate cancer early enough so it can be monitored and treatment given if needed.

    Prostate cancer in Black men

    Research has found that Black African and Black Caribbean men are three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men of other ethnicities. 1 in 4 black men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives. However, each man’s individual’s risk might be slightly higher or lower than this, depending on other risk factors such as age and family history.

    It is not yet known why black men are at higher risk of having prostate cancer, and research is still ongoing. What is known is higher rates of prostate cancer are seen in men of African descent across the UK, US, Caribbean and West Africa. This could suggest a genetic link between these men and their prostate cancer risk.

    Family history and genetics

    Researchers have found some characteristics in genes that can be passed down and increase the risk of developing prostate cancer. Only 5–10% of prostate cancers are thought to be strongly linked to an inherited risk.

    It is thought that a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer is higher if:

    • their father or brother developed prostate cancer at or under the age of 60
    • more than one man on the same side of the family has had prostate cancer.

    If this is the case in your family, it may indicate that an altered gene is present.

    A specific gene linked to prostate cancer has not yet been identified. However, research has shown that genes that are linked to breast cancer (called BRCA1 and BRCA2) may also increase the risk of getting prostate cancer.

    If you are worried about your family history, see our section about cancer genetics and prostate cancer.

    Symptoms of prostate cancer

    Men with early prostate cancer are unlikely to have any symptoms, as these only occur when the cancer is large enough to put pressure on the urethra (the tube that drains urine from the bladder).

    The symptoms of prostate cancer can include any of the following:

    • difficulty passing urine
    • passing urine more frequently than usual, especially at night
    • pain when passing urine
    • blood in the urine (this is not common).

    If you have any of these symptoms, get them checked by your doctor.

    These symptoms are usually caused by non-cancerous changes in the prostate rather than by cancer. In men over the age of 50, the prostate gland often gets larger due to a non-cancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia or hypertrophy (BPH). This is quite common and not usually a serious threat to health. Around 60% of men who are aged 60 or over have some degree of prostate enlargement. But it’s important to be safe and get yourself checked – reporting symptoms early to your GP can lead to an early diagnosis and better outcome. 

    Prostate Cancer UK has more information about common prostate problems.

    “I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2012. I had been experiencing dribbling after urinating and retrograde orgasms but just put this down to my age (59) and did not go to the doctor for some months. Had I listened to my friend and gone for a PSA test or gone to the doctor sooner my outcome may have been different. If you suspect there is anything wrong then seek medical advice quickly.  The examination can be embarrassing but it is important to remember that no matter how uncomfortable you feel about it, get yourself checked out. It could save your life.” Bill

    Things you can do

    • Be aware of what the symptoms are. If you experience any, don’t keep quiet – visit your GP.
    • If you are worried about prostate cancer due to symptoms or other risk factors, speak to your GP about whether a test is right for you. To find out more, read our information about the PSA test.
    • If you have prostate cancer in your family, keep a record of how many men have been affected and their age at diagnosis.

    We hope this blog has helped you find the support you need. If you need any further help, please get in touch.

    What do you think of this blog? Whether you're a regular reader or not, please tell us what you think by answering just 8 questions, and help us make this blog more interesting and useful.

    Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo


    Cancer Research UK. Prostate cancer incidence statistics.

    NHS Choices. Prostate enlargement.

    Prostate Cancer UK. About the risk in Black Men.

    Prostate Cancer UK. Prostate cancer facts and figures.

    Prostate Cancer UK. Who is at risk?

  • Caring for someone who is dying from cancer

    If you’re caring for someone whose cancer can’t be cured, you might be feeling lost, confused, alone or unsure where to turn. This blog contains useful information and practical advice that we hope will help.

    You may have lots of worries right now. Maybe you’re questioning whether you have the physical or emotional strength to cope. Or thinking that it will be difficult to manage practically at home. It’s important to remember that there is support available for you – you are not alone.

    But there’s so much to think about, where do you start? Where can you find the information you need about practical issues. And where can you get the support you need for you and the person you’re caring for? A good starting point is our booklet Caring for someone with advanced cancer. It includes information about the practical aspects of caring and the impact it can have on you as a carer, along with details of the medical and social help available.

    Below are some of the main things you might wish to think about – aspects of everyday care, who can help you, planning ahead, and making sure you look after yourself too.

    It’s taken us a long time to get there, but nowadays we can really talk about what’s going to happen and how we feel about it. Sometimes we don’t need to say anything. We can just sit there together holding hands. It’s very comforting somehow.

    Everyday care

    There are many ways you may be involved in caring for your relative or friend at home. These include managing everyday practical things such as washing, bathing, dressing and toilet needs, and also dealing with symptoms such as pain, dietary problems or nausea. We have lots of practical information about these issues and others. If you’re providing emotional support too, you might find our web pages about being there for someone with cancer helpful. This can all be very overwhelming, so it’s important to keep yourself as well as possible – there’s more about this below.

    Who can help?

    Caring for someone is very hard work, both physically and emotionally. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The more support you have, the better equipped you’ll be to care for your loved one, and the more you can focus on quality time together.

    There are a number of people who can help you in various ways, such as family and friends and voluntary organisations. You may need some respite care to allow you to re-energise. In addition, your loved one or you may be entitled to financial help – there are several different benefits and allowances out there. You should claim as soon as possible so that you don’t lose out.

    Planning ahead

    The person you’re caring for may want to talk to you about where they want to be cared for when they die and what treatments they do or don’t want to have. This is known as advance care planning. You may find our booklet Your life and your choices: plan ahead useful. It explains why planning ahead can help and how to go about it. It also talks about things such as organ donation, will writing and funeral planning. Another helpful booklet is End of Life: a guide.

    Looking after yourself

    It’s important that you look after yourself as well as the person you care for. There are many ways you can do this, including taking breaks, making time for you, eating well, or joining a support group. You may find our publications for carers useful: Hello, and how are you? A guide for carers, by carers and Let’s talk about you (for young carers).

    Looking after someone you care about can cause you to have many different feelings and emotions. Some people find that coming to terms with advanced cancer together brings them closer. But if you both find it hard to talk about your feelings, it may be easier to bring in a third person to help you, such as a trusted friend or counsellor.

    Talk to us

    I sometimes wonder if the world is still out there. People ring me and call in from time to time, but some days I feel so cut off.

    Always remember that you are not alone!

    The Macmillan team is with you every step of the way – if you’d like to talk to someone, please get in touch with us. Or join our Carers only online community group, where you can share your experiences, meet others in similar situations, ask questions and make friends.

    Knowing what to say is difficult for everyone who is affected by cancer. But finding the courage to talk to someone could make all the difference to your cancer journey.

    We hope this blog has helped you find the support you need. If you need any further help, please call us on 0808 808 00 00. We’re here for you.

    What do you think of this blog? Whether you're a regular reader or not, please tell us what you think by answering just 8 questions, and help us make this blog more interesting and useful.

    Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo

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