Preparing for treatment

If you are going to have treatment you might need to think about the effect of cancer on your finances. You may also want to think about practical issues such as childcare and pet care. It can also help to make a list of things you will need to do before you go, and what you will need to take with you.

Money, finance and insurance

Cancer can affect your usual income and bring unexpected expenses, such as travel costs, bigger heating bills and buying more foods for a special diet. These can make debt more likely. It is important to plan ahead. Working out your weekly or monthly budget is an important step to managing your everyday finances.

It is also important to think about insurance. Insurance protects your finances against unexpected events.

We have more information on money, finance and insurance.


Benefits are payments from the government to people who need financial help. There are lots of benefits that could help you as you prepare for treatment, but the system can be confusing.

Macmillan Grants are small payments to help people with the extra costs that cancer can cause. They are usually a one-off payment. They are for people who have a low level of income and savings.

If you need help applying for benefits or grants, speak to a Macmillan welfare rights adviser by calling 0808 808 00 00.

We have more information on benefits. Our benefits checker can give you a quick idea of which benefits you may be eligible for.

Effect of cancer on work

How cancer affects your work life will depend on different things such as:

  • the type of cancer, its stage and size, and whether it has spread
  • treatment and side effects
  • your finances
  • the practical support you have.

It is a good idea to talk to your manager or human resources department as early as possible. You can talk to them about the possible effect of cancer on your work. If your manager knows about this, they can support you better.

To prepare to talk to your employer, it may help to ask your healthcare team questions about treatment and what to expect.

We have more information about how cancer can affect your work life.

Your rights at work

If you have or have had cancer, the law considers you to be disabled. This means you can’t be treated less favourably than other people at work because of the cancer. If you are treated less favourably because of the cancer, it is called discrimination.

There are laws that protect you from being discriminated against at work because of cancer:

  • If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, the Equality Act 2010 protects you.
  • If you live in Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 protects you.

This legislation also says your employer has to make reasonable adjustments (changes) to your workplace and their work practices. This is to help you carry on working or return to work. Examples of reasonable adjustments could mean time off for hospital appointments or flexible working.

We have more information about your rights at work.

Self-employment and cancer

If you are self-employed, you may be concerned that having cancer could lead to you needing to start all over again when you are recovered, or having to close your business. It can also affect your self-confidence.

If you want to carry on working, take some time off or close your business, you might like to think about:

  • benefits personal
  • financial issues
  • personal debt.

It is best to make any big decisions when you are feeling calm, rather than when you are feeling anxious and upset.

We have more information about self-employment and cancer.


Caring for children often becomes more difficult when someone in the family has cancer. You may be finding it hard to care for your children how you would like to.

This can be upsetting, but don’t feel guilty about asking for help. Family and friends are often more than happy to help by taking children to school or with everyday tasks such as shopping. This can give you more energy to do fun things with your children.

You could also speak to your employer about more flexible working hours. Many offer home-working or flexitime. Social services can provide practical support and there are also charities with experienced volunteers who can visit your home to help with childcare.

There are options available if you are struggling to cope. We have more information about childcare.

Pet care

It can be difficult to look after a pet when you are affected by cancer. Sometimes you may need to go into hospital for a short time or at very short notice. You can plan for an emergency or short-term care in case it happens.

Friends, neighbours, family member or your local vet may be able to help. Other short-term options could be fostering, boarding service, a kennel or cattery.

We have more information to help plan for your pet care.


Fertility means being able to get pregnant or being able to make someone pregnant.

If you are concerned about how your cancer treatment might affect your fertility talk to your cancer doctor or specialist nurse before treatment starts. Having children is an important part of many people’s lives or their future plans. But it may be hard to think about this when you’re already coping with cancer.

We have more information about how cancer treatments can affect fertility in men and women.

If you have cancer and you look after someone

If you have cancer and also look after someone you may have many different feelings. These feelings may come and go. You may feel like you are on your own and that other people do not understand what you are going through.

Paying attention to your feelings can help you support them better. Talking to a professional may help.

If you think you may no longer be able to care for someone because of the cancer or its treatment, it is important to let people know straight away. This might be your healthcare team, your GP or the person's GP or social worker if they have one.

We have more information about looking after others when you have cancer.

Managing practical tasks

It is difficult to know exactly how cancer and its treatment will affect you. You may be able to carry on with practical tasks as you did before. Or you may feel too tired or weak to manage everyday things such as:

  • washing and dressing
  • preparing meals or drinks
  • grocery shopping
  • laundry or housework.

This may be because you are coping with the symptoms and side effects of treatment. Remember that family, friends and neighbours can all help you with your everyday activities. Often, they will be glad to help with any practical tasks.

We have more information about managing practical tasks.


Travelling abroad

Many people who have cancer are able to travel without problems. But for other people, cancer or its treatment may make travelling more difficult.

Here are some of the main effects that you may need to think about:

  • Cancer and its treatments can have physical effects, including certain side effects and symptoms. These could make it more difficult to travel or could cause problems while you are away.
  • You may need to take medicines and medical equipment with you.
  • Travel insurance is generally more expensive for people who have cancer.

It is important to speak to your doctor or specialist nurse before you make any plans. If you are worried about the cost of travelling, help may be available.

We have more information about travelling abroad.

Travelling to hospital

Travelling to and from hospital can be expensive, especially if you are going to have treatment on a daily basis, over a period of weeks. The costs can quickly add up, but there is help available.

If you get certain benefits, you may be able to claim a refund on:

  • your bus or train fares
  • some petrol costs
  • taxi fares (in some situations).

If you need someone to travel with you to hospital for medical reasons, you may be able to get a refund on their travel costs, too.

Hospital car parking policies are different across the UK.

We have more information about travel costs to and from hospital.

Talking to your healthcare team

You probably have lots of questions about treatment. Knowing what is happening can make you feel more involved in your care. It is helpful to plan the questions you would like to ask, and keep notes.

Some questions may be difficult to ask, and you may feel embarrassed. But healthcare professionals are used to these types of questions and are happy to help.

If you are already having complementary therapy before you start treatment, make sure you tell your cancer doctor or nurse, especially if you are taking herbs, pills or medicines.

Eating well and keeping active

Many people find making the decision to follow a healthy, balanced diet and to be more active helps give them back a sense of control. A dietitian can help you make changes. They can also advise you about any other dietary problems you might have during or after your cancer treatment.

We have more information about eating well and keeping active.