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Taking Care of Someone with Cancer

Expertly reviewed by Jessica Espanto, LPT, MA, RPsy · Psychology · In Touch Community Services

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 28, 2022

Taking Care of Someone with Cancer

Taking care of someone with cancer can be overwhelming. How can you support a loved one during every stage of cancer? Find out here.

taking care of someone with cancer

Caring for patients with stage 0 or stage 1 cancer

Stage 0 cancer means the tumor is still in the place where it developed (in situ) and has not yet spread to nearby tissues.

On the other hand, stage 1 cancer means the tumor is small, and it has not grown deeply in the nearby tissues nor spread to the lymph nodes or other body parts. Doctors refer to stage 1 as early-stage cancer.

Tips for caregivers

Stage 0 and stage 1 cancer, according to experts, is often highly curable. The most common treatment option is to undergo a surgery that removes the tumor. You can help your loved one by:

Processing your feelings first

Before you can properly take care of your loved one, you must first process your emotions. Take your time to cope with your feelings. This way, you’ll be able to focus on the patient.

Learning about the diagnosis

While some patients may open up about their diagnosis, others may find it emotionally tiring. If you feel that your loved one is having difficulty talking about their cancer, try to learn about it by reading relevant materials.

Making plans

Patients with stage 0 and stage 1 cancer often do not exhibit symptoms that might stop them from doing enjoyable activities. Talk to the patient about the activities he or she enjoys. With the doctor’s approval, make plans to do these activities before or after the treatment.

Accompanying them in their doctor’s appointments

Since stage 0 and stage 1 cancer is often highly curable, the patient may decide to get treatment as soon as possible. In taking care of someone with cancer, offer your support by accompanying them to their doctor’s appointment. If they agree to it, be there for them during and after their treatment.

Caring for patients with stage 2 or stage 3 cancer

Stage 2 cancer generally means the tumor has grown more deeply in the nearby tissues. It may also be bigger and have spread to the lymph nodes, but not to the other parts of the body.

Stage 3 cancer may have grown to a specific size and may consist of multiple tumors; it may also have spread to the lymph nodes. In some cases, stage 3 cancer may be “metastatic,” which means it has spread to nearby organs or tissues.

Tips for caregivers:

Patients with stage 2 or 3 cancer may or may not experience symptoms that disrupt their daily routine. In addition to the suggestions for stages 0 and 1, you can also offer your support by:

Treating them the same

Don’t let your loved one’s condition get in the way of your relationship. As much as possible, maintain a sense of normalcy by treating them just as you always have.

Supporting them while they are getting treatment

Unlike early-stage cancer, the doctor may not recommend surgery for stage 2 or 3 cancer. They may give options like radiotherapy and chemotherapy to at least reduce tumor size.

Support your family or friend by keeping in touch with them during their radiotherapy session or accompanying them for their chemo appointment. Additionally, since the treatment may result in some adverse effects, offer help by doing some household chores.

Making an allowance for sadness

Should the patient wish to talk about their bad experiences and sad emotions, be there for them. If they get angry, sad, or refuse your company, do not take it personally. Provide emotional ability, but also establish healthy boundaries at the same time.

Caring for patients with stage 4 cancer

Stage 4 cancer means cancer has spread to other organs. For instance, the patient may have had breast cancer, but it has already spread to the brain. You still refer to it as breast cancer, but now it has metastasized. Doctors call stage 4 cancer advanced-stage or metastatic cancer.

Tips for caregivers

Advanced-stage cancer may cause a lot of stress not only to the patient but also to those caring for them. In taking care of someone with stage 4 cancer, offer your support by:

Don’t try to disregard your emotions

Allow yourself to experience feelings of pain, sadness, anger, denial, shock, among other feelings.

Making sure that the patient is always comfortable

Reduce patient stress and discomfort by helping with their meal preparations, hygiene, and, if present, pain. Ensure that they take their medications on time and equip yourself with what to do in some emergencies.

Working closely with the healthcare team

Be in constant communication with your loved one’s healthcare team. Give them regular updates about the patient’s condition and follow through with the current care plan.

Understanding your loved one’s wishes

If your family or friend wish to set their affairs in order, help them do so. Respecting their decisions is good for the patient as it gives them a sense of control.

Learn more about Cancer here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Expertly reviewed by

Jessica Espanto, LPT, MA, RPsy

Psychology · In Touch Community Services

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 28, 2022

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