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
  • Join our team: new volunteering opportunity in the Cancer Information Development team

    In the Cancer Information Development team, we are always trying to do more to reach everyone affected by cancer. We produce information in a range of accessible formats including easy read, audio, British Sign Language, Braille, large print and other languages. You can see this information on our website.  

    We’re now looking to recruit an Information Access volunteer to help us with this work. You will commission information in accessible formats and think about ways we can promote this. You will also help us to plan some focus groups and research the ways different audiences like to access our information. Some writing, editing and proofreading skills would be helpful too.

    With your help, we can reach even more people affected by cancer who need our support, by providing clear and reliable information in an accessible format that is suitable for them.

    We'd ideally like someone to volunteer 1 or 2 days a week during office hours, although the timings can be flexible around your schedule.

    If you’re interested, please check out the opportunity in our Volunteering Village.

    Please email Abi Delderfield (adelderfield@macmillan.org.uk) if you have any questions.

  • Has cancer affected your sex life?

    Whether you’re single or in a relationship… whatever your sexual orientation… cancer can have a big impact on your sex life. It might be something you worry about as soon as you are diagnosed, or you may only become aware of changes to your sex life as you go through treatment or after it’s finished.

    This is why we’ve developed two new booklets to help people understand how cancer and its treatment can affect their sexuality and sex lives. You can order them now, and like all our information they’re completely free: Sexuality and cancer – information for men and Sexuality and cancer – information for women.

    Image of the front cover of the booklet, Sexuality and cancer - information for men  Image of the front cover of the booklet, Sexuality and cancer - information for women

    It’s difficult to predict how cancer and its treatments will affect you.  For many people, any changes in their sexuality will be temporary. However, you may need to get used to permanent, physical changes and learn new ways to give and receive sexual pleasure.

    Quote from Jim: I’ve always loved sex. A diminished libido is something I fear, so I’ve been prescribed Viagra.

    Quote from John: I use either injections or a machine to get an erection. Even my consultant said you need a sense of humour to use them!

    Any type of surgery can affect your sexuality and sex life, even if it doesn’t involve the sexual areas of your body. Physical changes, such as having a stoma after bowel surgery, can change your body image and confidence. The booklets have tips on how to enjoy sex with a stoma in place, as well as how to cope with lots of other body changes after cancer.

    It may be your partner who is concerned about sex. These booklets are for them too. The information in them will help you both to talk about your worries with each other. Communication is important in keeping a happy relationship on track.

    Talking about your sexual issues can be the first step in dealing with any problems you’re having. Help is available for most problems, but you may never find out about it if you keep the issues to yourself.

    The booklets explain who you can talk to and where to look for help if you’re worried about how cancer is changing your sex life.

    Quote from Vanessa: I was referred to a psycho-sexual counsellor. I asked her to focus on rehearsing ways of telling potential partners about the cancer.

    We hope the information in this blog has helped you find what you need. If cancer has affected your sex life, Macmillan can offer information and support to help you. Order the booklets above or visit macmillan.org.uk/sex. Or you can call 0808 808 00 00 to speak to a cancer support specialist.

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

  • Get involved – join our community of cancer information reviewers!

    As Editorial Assistants at Macmillan, one of the highlights of our day is chatting to reviewers. Whether we’re talking about cancer treatment, the best way to improve our information or even weighing up the pros and cons of Zumba, working with such a lovely group of people is guaranteed to put a smile on our faces.

    What is a reviewer?

    Every single one of our publications gets reviewed by relevant medical experts and by several volunteer reviewers. This could be you!

    As a retired writer and editor, and a Cancer Voice, I find it really satisfying to be involved in reviewing materials for Macmillan. Everything is already of a very high standard, but it's great to be involved with making sure all Macmillan booklets and leaflets are as informative and accurate as they can be.

    Our aim is to provide the best possible cancer information for everyone’s needs. And in order to make sure it’s all accurate and up-to-date, we update every publication every two and a half years. Part of this process involves sending it to reviewers. 

    See below for how to sign up as a reviewer!

    As a reviewer, you can help us to make sure that our content is relevant and helpful to people affected by cancer. Your comments enable us to understand what people need or would like to find in a publication.

    You might have or have had cancer, or be a carer, friend or relative of someone who’s had cancer. You don’t need to have any specific knowledge of a cancer type or treatment to review for us. Even if the information is about something you aren’t familiar with, your comments are always valuable.

    It’s important to us that we reach everyone affected by cancer, wherever they live. Our goal is for our information to be relevant to you. So whether you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, we want you to have your say about our information by becoming a reviewer. 

    How it works

    Reviewers read our information before it’s published and send us feedback to help us improve the content. We look at all the comments from reviewers and take them into account when writing the booklets.

    If we’re in need of a reviewer, we’ll contact you directly. If you’re available, we’ll send you the publication with some guidelines and a form to fill out your review. We usually ask that you return your comments within three weeks. They are then passed onto the Nurse and Editor working on the publication.

    The great thing about reviewing for us is that it can be done in the comfort of your own home on a flexible basis, as and when you have any spare time. We’ll always try to fit things around you, because your support is invaluable.

    Where do I sign up?

    You can register your interest in reviewing online by filling out a short form. That form comes straight to us, and we’ll then get in touch with you directly. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us at reviewing@macmillan.org.uk or on 0207 840 4736. 

    Sometimes, we post adverts on our Opportunities Exchange asking for reviewers for specific topics/booklets. If you sign up for an account with the Opportunities Exchange, you can keep your eye out for these and apply for them as and when you’re interested.

    When we found out I had breast cancer it was a bit overwhelming to say the least. We needed factual, impartial and supportive information. So we turned to Macmillan. I’m still using the booklet on Coping with fatigue to this day! Although I don’t have oodles of money or oodles of time, what I do have is oodles of respect for people who want to help people affected by cancer. And if I can do my small bit by being a reviewer then that’s good enough for me.

    Our reviewers are at the heart of our work. They are able to spot the improvements we need to make so that our information is the best it can be for people affected by cancer. They are a huge help and we consider ourselves very lucky to work with such inspiring people every day.

  • The great challenge of China - by Debbie in Macmillan's Cancer Information team

    On the 11th April 2014, I stood tall on a peak of the Great Wall of China. It was the culmination of a year’s worth of fundraising efforts and five years to the day since I’d watched my dad lose his fight with cancer. Five and a half years earlier, I had watched my mum do the same. That was when my family were first introduced to the vital work Macmillan do.

    Photograph of Great Wall of China

    Walking the Great Wall of China had always been high on my ‘bucket list’ and Macmillan’s China Challenge seemed the perfect way to say a big thank you to the organisation which supported my parents when they needed it most.

    And so my journey started… bright and early at Heathrow with another 44 excited trekkers. One long delay and missed connection, a brief detour to Doha and 34 hours later, we arrived at our Beijing hotel as exhausted and long-suffering comrades-in-arms. It was 2am and the first day’s trek started in the morning!

    Thankfully, the tour leader Greg decided to go easy on us and took us on a ‘gentle’ two-hour introduction to a nicely reconstructed section of the wall. Sounds a doddle. But with knee-high steps, dusty and treacherous inclines and a newly found dislike for heights, it was a shock to the system. 

    Photograph of two trekkers

    One day down, six to go!

    Of course, much more was to come the day after. The day of Heaven’s Ladder. Now, this day was tough. Eight hours tough. 30 degrees heat tough. Tough. Legs still sore from the day before, faces smothered in SPF30 and with jam sandwiches, toilet paper and six bottles of water strapped to our backs, the infamous ascent of 300 steps loomed before us. I have no regrets in telling you there are no photos of this day’s trekking. Every ounce of energy and concentration was focused on my survival!

    So it’s a good job we have Google to provide what I was too petrified to: 

    Photograph of Heaven's Ladder

    Yep, those are all steps.

    At many sections of the wall, the ancient wonder was often worn away to no more than rubble. Reduced to scrambling up inclines on all fours, I envisioned the manicure I’d get back in Beijing. I also learnt that the steps of the wall were purposely built unevenly in order to slow down approaching foreign armies. I can safely say their strategy works.

    Photograph looking down some steep steps on the Wall

    Don’t look down!

    Photograph looking up a steep slope of rubble

    Um... has anyone seen the steps?

    At the end of our day, we headed to a local villager’s home for the night; four or six people to a room, and sometimes six of us to a very long bed. We queued to pay 10 Chinese yeun for a hot shower. After surviving the day on bread, jam and a crushed boiled egg, the home-cooked food was the most delicious I have ever tasted. Naively, we believed ourselves to be indulging in authentic local food. Until we saw the food the locals actually ate. Sheep’s brain, anyone? No? Fish head casserole then.

    Photograph of a local child

    One of the smaller locals :)

    Due to the delay at the start of our journey, the trek was amended to six (longer) days as opposed to the planned seven. The last day was an ascent up to 1,100m above sea level. Ouch. With 45 weary pairs of legs, a twisted ankle and a multitude of blisters between us, we dragged our aching bodies up the hillside and to spectacular views. 

    Photograph of trekkers going over a very high part of the Wall

    Over lunch, perched high upon the wall, I gave a talk about Macmillan’s Cancer Information Development team, the team I work in at Macmillan and who publish this blog. Some people had lost parents, some partners, some siblings. Others were survivors of cancer themselves. Others had friends or family who were still fighting. I discussed how vital it was that all our cancer information and resources were reviewed by people affected by cancer. 

    Photograph of trekkers gathered at a peakalong the Wall

    Definitely the most memorable (and highest) presentation I’ve ever given.

    At this point, all that was left was the descent to the finishing line. As the crew showered us with pink fizz, many of us were overcome with emotion as we cheered and embraced: thoughts of our loved ones, the magnitude of our achievement, and both relief and sadness that the challenge was over.

    Photograph of trekkers and reps

    At this point, I’d be amiss to not give a ‘shout out’ to the Macmillan challenge rep, Lauren, who tended to our every need, and the Discover Adventure crew who led the trekking. Absolute professionals. They were assisted by two local guides Alan and James (don’t ask me to give their Chinese names!) who navigated the wall like our own personal superheroes. Alan was a student in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and filled every spare moment with his unique insights into Chinese history, society, education and politics. It was an amazing glimpse into an ancient culture.

    Photograph of two guides drinking beer at the top of the Wall

    Alan and Greg replenishing lost fluids

    In summary, the trip was exhausting, at times terrifying and completely unforgettable.

    I’ll always remember:

    • the beauty of the landscape set against the poverty of rural China
    • the camaraderie of the trekkers
    • trying to spread butter and jam with chopsticks
    • and the toilets (don’t ask).

    To anyone thinking of doing a similar challenge, I would say ‘do it!’ It takes a lot of time, energy and hard work to fundraise for the trip, but the rewards are massive. China is a unique and fascinating country and I feel honoured to have been part of a group which raised an astounding £200,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support – more than enough to operate the Macmillan Support Line for a month, answering 7,135 calls and emails from people needing practical or financial support, or just wanting to chat.

    Photograph showing the view out of a window along the Wall

    If the China Challenge isn’t your cup of tea, take a look at Macmillan’s other challenge events. There’s something for everyone from trekking Hadrian’s Wall to cycling through Vietnam.

    Have you been affected by cancer? We need people like you to help improve our cancer information resources. Email reviewing@macmillan.org.uk for more information on becoming a reviewer.

  • If you're feeling low

    Cancer is tough. It doesn’t just affect your body; it’s an emotional upheaval too. But there are things you can do to help yourself cope, from simply reading a web page, to trying to open up to someone close. In this blog, we explore these and other tips for coping with a low mood.

    Whether you are a carer or someone directly affected by cancer, working through a cancer diagnosis can be a very difficult time. Sometimes you may feel very low and it’s okay to feel this way.

    You may feel anxious, sad, or like you’ve lost control. You may worry about what will happen next or in the future. This is a very normal way to feel.

    Cancer can cause us to have many different feelings. And these can affect our behaviour and mood. 

    Things you can do

    If you are feeling low, it can take a lot of effort to do something that makes you feel better. To start with, doing small things can really help. Like getting up and dressed every day.

    Trying to make sure you eat well and keep to a regular sleep pattern can also help. And keeping active or exercising when you can will improve your mood.

    Often just sharing how you feel with someone can help to improve your mood. Your friends and family are likely to be very willing to listen. But counsellors or support groups are also great places to talk about how you feel and to hear about other experiences.

    You may find it helpful to look at our information about the emotional effects of cancer or join our online community, where you can become part of different groups and talk to people who understand.

    You may like to try complementary therapies. These can allow you to release tension, helping you let go of worries and fears, and regain a sense of control. Meditation, relaxation and massage are only a few of the many therapies you could try to feel better.

    The important thing to keep in mind is that everybody is different and there is no right way to feel.  Be kind to yourself and remember that if you want to share your worries or just have a chat, then you can call the Macmillan Support Line for free on 0808 808 00 00

    The difference between low mood and depression

    It’s normal to feel low when you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with cancer. But if you feel very low most of the time, you may be depressed. Depression affects around 1 in 10 people and it can be difficult to recognise in ourselves.

    Symptoms of depression include:

    • difficulty sleeping
    • crying a lot
    • being unusually irritable
    • getting no pleasure from things you normally enjoy.


    If you think you may be depressed, don’t be afraid to speak to your GP. Depression is not a sign of personal failure or an inability to cope. It’s a common condition that can usually be treated successfully. The first step to feeling better is finding appropriate help.

    If you feel you can’t go on or you are having suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone. The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day and offer free, confidential, non-judgemental support to anyone. If you feel overwhelmed by it all, this could be the outlet you need to talk things through. 

    We’re with you every step of the way

    The Macmillan team is here to help – if you’d like to talk to someone, please get in touch.  We have a team of nurses and other experts who can answer any questions you have, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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

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