Coping with Cancer 

Having cancer is hard and has both physical and emotional effects. It can bring up feelings like fear, sadness and despair. Cancer symptoms and treatment side effects cause sickness and fatigue. This can make it harder or impossible to engage in some activities. Plus, when one person has cancer, it affects their family members and friends. 

Three keys to coping well with cancer are working with your providers, focusing on self-care and seeking support. These keys will help during any stage of cancer, from diagnosis and treatment to remission and recurrence. 

Work with your providers 

  • Take an active role in your treatment Ask your providers any questions you have. Tell them how you feel (physically, mentally and emotionally). This will help them give you the care you need. It will also help them refer you to the right specialty providers. 
  • Follow your treatment plan As time goes on, let your providers know how it is working for you. Also tell them if you are having trouble following it. They may be able to adjust it or help you follow it. 
  • If you have an advance directive, tell your providers An advance directive is a list of healthcare decisions you make for yourself to be followed if you can no longer make decisions for yourself due to illness. If you have an advance directive, let your providers know about it. Learn how to create an advance directive.

Get more tips about how to work with your providers from the American Cancer Society

Focus on self-care 

  • Choose a healthy lifestyle It is always important to eat well, get enough sleep and exercise. But it is especially important when you have a serious illness. Taking good care of yourself in these ways can really help you feel better physically, mentally and emotionally. 
  • Look your best Having cancer can change your body and appearance. Treatments like chemotherapy can cause hair loss. Some surgeries can result in breast loss. How you look affects how you feel. Wearing wigs and breast prostheses can help you both look and feel more like yourself. 
  • Nurture your relationships Part of self-care is bonding with people you care about and who care about you. Spend quality time with family members and get together with friends. Let your spouse/partner know how you feel and what you need. A health crisis like cancer can actually bring you closer to those you love.

Get more self-care tips from the University of California San Francisco

Seek support 

  • Tell people how you feel While talking about your feelings can be hard, it can also help you feel better. You can talk with your partner, family members and friends. You can also talk to a therapist. 
    • HPSM covers outpatient psychotherapy 
  • Let people help you Even if you have cancer, you may still be able to do many activities yourself. But you may also need others to be your caretakers. They may need to help with your medical needs. You may need them to do housework or run errands. It is important to ask for help and accept help when you need it. 
  • Tell people what you need Be specific about what kind of support you need. For example, if you feel down, you may need someone to listen to you. Or you may need someone to go grocery shopping. Be direct so people know how they can help you. 

Support resources for cancer patients

HPSM resources

Gets members, their providers and family members (if appropriate) working from the same treatment plan to make the best use of health care benefits and community resources.


Get personalized help and support with setting and meeting your health goals.


Call 24 hours/7 days a week for health advice from a Licensed Registered Nurse (RN).


Local resources

Provides buddy programs, counseling, events, programs and online resources to support cancer patients.


Offers professionally facilitated cancer support groups as well as drop-in networking groups.


Offers breast cancer support groups, classes, workshops and personal one-on-one consultations.


Offers free cancer support groups where you can share concerns and learn new coping skills from others facing similar challenges.


National resources

Has a 24/7 hotline, breast cancer peer support program and other programs to help you through cancer treatment.

Toll free: 800-227-2345

Offers support groups for cancer patients led by oncology social workers.

Toll free: 800-813-4673

Offers a Breast Cancer Helpline, webinars and a texting program for young women with breast cancer.

Toll free: 888-753-5222

Caregiver support resources

Offers a wealth of online caregiver support resources, including an interactive guide, videos, articles and more.

Toll free: 800-227-2345

Provides family consultation, help with long-term planning and ongoing support throughout the caregiving journey.

Toll free: 800-445-8106

Offers support groups for loved ones of cancer patients and people who have lost a loved one.

Toll free: 800-813-4673

Offers support groups for caregivers to discuss concerns, challenges and ways to care for themselves while supporting loved ones with cancer.


Offers free cancer caregiver support groups.


Offers support groups for families and caregivers of cancer patients.


Has a Case Management and Social Work team to help patients and families cope with cancer.