How cancer affects you

We don’t shy away from the fact that being diagnosed with cancer is probably the biggest thing that’s ever happened to you. Right now you may feel angry, sad or worried about treatment. Perhaps you’re anxious about how your illness will affect your family and friends too.

This information explores how cancer may affect you, your relationships with friends, your education and emotions. Many pages also contain a downloadable factsheet with more information and tips.

Cancer myths

You may have heard a lot about cancer in the past, from friends and family, or on the internet and TV. However, it may be that some of that information is not correct. We have dealt with some of the more common myths about cancer below.

If you have a question or you are worried about something that we haven’t covered here, talk to a member of your care team.

Cancer is not just an old person’s disease

There isn’t just one type of cancer, there are lots of them – and they can affect children, young people and adults alike.

It isn’t your fault

There are lots of theories about what causes cancer in young people, but there isn’t one definite answer. However, you can be sure that nothing you did (or didn’t do) caused your illness.

Cancer is not contagious

You can spend as much time with your loved ones as you want. Touching and hugging is fine too – you can’t pass on cancer.

Cancer doesn’t have to change everything

You may find that cancer and its treatment change how you look and how you feel about yourself, but through it all, you’re still you. Depending on the type of treatment you need, you may be able to keep going to school and seeing friends. Even if you’re in hospital, staying in touch with your friends and doing activities you enjoyed before can help you through this time.

Most young people with cancer do get better

In general, the cancers that affect younger people behave differently and respond differently to treatment, compared to cancers that affect older people. Your recovery will depend on the type of cancer you have, how severe it is, the treatment you need and your response to this treatment. If you have questions about your particular cancer, it is best to speak to your doctor.

Reviewed February 2015. Next planned review 2016.