What can I do to help myself?

Many people feel that there is nothing they can do when they are told they have cancer. They feel out of control and helpless for a while. However, there are practical ways you can help yourself.


Diet and food safety

A balanced, nutritious diet will help to keep you well and able to cope with any side effects of treatment. The Cancer Society’s booklet Eating Well/Kia Pai te Kai provides useful advice about eating well during treatment. Phone your local Cancer Society office or call the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) for a copy. You can also read it online or print it out from our website.

Food safety is of special concern to cancer patients, especially during treatment, which may suppress immune function. To make food as safe as possible, it is recommended that patients follow the guidelines:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before food preparation and eating.
  • Handle raw meat, fish, poultry and eggs with care. Clean thoroughly any surfaces that have been in contact with these foods.
  • Keep raw meats separate from cooked food.
  • Cook meat, poultry and fish thoroughly and use pasteurised milk and juices.
  • Refrigerate food promptly to minimise bacterial growth.
  • When eating in restaurants avoid foods that may have bacterial contamination, such as sushi and raw or undercooked meats, fish, poultry and eggs, and food from salad bars.
  • If there is any concern about the purity of your water - for example, if you have tank water - have it checked for bacterial content.



Research has indicated that people who keep active cope better with their treatment. Discuss with your doctor what exercise is best for you.


Relaxation techniques

Some people find relaxation or meditation helps them feel better. The hospital social worker, nurse or your local Cancer Society may know whether the hospital runs any relaxation programmes, or might be able to advise you on local community programmes.


Complementary and alternative therapies

Complementary therapy is a term used to describe any treatment or therapy that is not part of the conventional treatment of a disease. It includes things like:

  • acupuncture
  • Māori medicine, such as rongoa and mirimiri (medicine and healing therapies)
  • relaxation therapy/meditation
  • yoga
  • positive imagery
  • spiritual healing/cultural healing
  • art
  • aromatherapy/massage.

Complementary methods are not given to cure disease, but they may help control symptoms and improve wellbeing.

Alternative therapy is a term used to describe any treatment or therapy that may be offered as an alternative to conventional treatments. It includes things like:

  • homeopathy
  • naturopathy
  • Chinese herbs.

Alternative treatments are sometimes promoted as cancer cures. However, they are unproven, as they may not have been scientifically tested, or, if tested, they were found to be ineffective.

It is important to let your doctor know if you are taking any complementary or alternative therapies because some treatments may be harmful if they are taken at the same time as conventional treatments.

For more information on complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), ask you local Cancer Society for the booklet Complementary and Alternative Medicines: A guide for people affected by cancer.


Seeking advice from health professionals

If you feel uncomfortable or unsure about your treatment, it is important that you discuss any concerns with those involved in your care, including your general practitioner.


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