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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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Tips for Family and Friends of Cancer Patients

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Family members and friends are often profoundly affected by changes in a loved one's health.

Here are some tips to help family and friends cope with a loved one's cancer diagnosis:

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Overview

Note: Separate PDQ summaries on Testicular Cancer Treatment and Levels of Evidence for Cancer Screening and Prevention Studies are also available. Benefits Based on fair evidence, screening for testicular cancer would not result in an appreciable decrease in mortality, in part because therapy at each stage is so effective. Magnitude of Effect: Fair evidence of no reduction in mortality. Study Design: Opinions of respected authorities based on clinical experience, descriptive...

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  • Feel free to ask the doctor questions if you accompany your loved one to an appointment. Write down questions so you don't forget them.
  • Be prepared for changes in your loved one's behavior and mood. Medications, discomforts, and stress can cause someone with cancer to become depressed or angry.
  • Encourage your loved one to be active and independent, as much as possible, to help him or her regain a sense of self-reliance and confidence.
  • Be realistic about your own needs. Be sure you are sleeping enough, eating properly, and taking some time off for yourself. It is hard to offer much help when you are exhausted.
  • Don't hesitate to ask other family members and friends for help. They will appreciate the opportunity.

Family members and friends of a person coping with cancer may also find themselves under a great deal of stress. To reduce your stress:

  • Try to keep a positive attitude.
  • Accept that there are events you cannot control.
  • Be assertive instead of aggressive. "Assert" your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.
  • Learn to relax.
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when you are physically fit.
  • Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
  • Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.
  • Consider joining a support group to share your experiences and learn from others. It may help to feel like you're not alone.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 02, 2014
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