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Managing the emotional impact of cancer

Patient information A-Z

It's normal...

When your diagnosis of cancer was first confirmed you may well have experienced difficulty in coming to terms with your illness. You may have found that things and relationships which had been fine are now more challenging. Cancer can challenge every aspect of your life. You may feel sad, fearful, angry or ask "why me?" You may be in denial or want to avoid talking about cancer. You may feel alone. These feelings are normal. And it is okay to ask for help or to want someone to listen to your experience. Talking about cancer may be uncomfortable or upsetting, but it often helps you start to feel better. It may help to know that, “around the time of a diagnosis of cancer, approximately half of all patients experience levels of anxiety and depression severe enough to affect their quality of life adversely.” For most, these feelings will subside, but if they do not then it can be invaluable to accept support from a specialist psychological or psychiatric service.

Cancer also affects family, friends and carers. If you support a loved one through cancer, you may have your own emotional needs that you want to look after. This leaflet aims to provide contact details for a range of options for managing the emotional impact of cancer that are tailored to your individual needs, whatever those may be.

Identifying the right support

If the feelings listed above are new to you the range of support options may seem overwhelming. Support ranges from casual drop-in sessions with someone who can offer a listening ear to more structured options such as counselling or psychotherapy.

Some services are labelled as offering mental health support, but provide emotional support on a range of levels and are not restricted to those with specific mental health needs. This leaflet provides information intended to help you choose the right option for you. However, it might take a couple of tries until you find what works for you.

You can also ask your Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) or GP about local options. They will have details on referral criteria and waiting times.

Locations, opening hours and contact details are provided along with a brief description of the support that can be accessed. These are intended to help guide you in deciding which organisation might be most suited to your needs. If you would like more information, website addresses are listed to allow you to do some further research. Alternatively, a conversation with your CNS or GP can also provide further information and help with the referral process, if necessary.

This guide covers resources in Cambridgeshire. If you live further afield, your local Macmillan Information Centre, CNS or GP will be better equipped to provide you with details of local organisations that can support you. Some organisations listed in the ‘Voluntary Sector’ section are national charities and may have branches more local to you.

What to do in a mental health crisis

If you feel unsafe, distressed or worried about your mental health, dial 111 option 2. (If you are in Wisbech, dial 111 option 1 and ask the call handler to put you through to the First Response Service). Available 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The phone is answered by a trained mental health professional who will listen to your concerns and help you to get the support you need.

Resources at CUH

Macmillan CUH cancer support team

Macmillan 'Pod', Oncology outpatients (Level 2), staff outpatient and inpatient support

CUH and Maggie's psychological support service

A confidential service offering support on a 1:1 basis, in peer support groups or with a psychologist.


21 Milton House
Puddicombe Way

Pastoral care team

Pastoral care offers support to you and your family from cancer diagnosis to follow-up. They can help you cope with the ups and downs that you may experience and enable you to live your best in keeping with who you are.

Location: Chapel, off the main concourse (Level 2)

Palliative care (inpatient) and enhanced support care (outpatient)
Breast Counsellor (funded by ACT)

A member of the Breast team offering short-term counselling to patients diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. Referrals must go through the Breast team.

The teenage and young adult (TYA) counselling service

For ages 16-24.


The Oasis
Abington House (Ground floor)

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust

Primary care mental health service (PRISM), via GP surgery

This service is available in all GP surgeries in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and provides specialist mental health support so that patients with mental ill health can access prompt advice and support, receive help in a community setting and experience a more joined-up approach to care.

Referral: Ask your GP for more information.

Psychological wellbeing services

Previously known as 'improving access to psychological therapies' (IAPT).

Access to psychological therapies for common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Referral: Self-referral or by healthcare professional.

Locations: Cambridge, Peterborough, Huntingdon, March, Wisbech and other satellite areas.

Lawrence Way community counselling service

Part of the IAPT service.

Referral: Self-referral or by healthcare professional


37 Lawrence Way

First response service

A phone service staffed by healthcare professionals who will listen to your concerns and help you to get the support you need. Accessible by phone 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.


  • (Cambridgeshire and Peterborough): 111, Option 2
  • (Wisbech): 111, option 1 and ask for first response service

North West Anglia NHS foundation trust

Hinchingbrooke hospital


Hinchingbrooke Park
PE29 6NT

Macmillan woodlands centre
Hinchingbrooke hospital chaplaincy
Hunts community nurses (Hunts community cancer network, HCCN)
Peterborough city hospital

Location: Bretton Gates, Peterborough PE3 9GZ
North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust - Peterborough City Hospital

Robert Horrell Macmillan centre - cancer wellbeing service

Voluntary sector

All charities are accessible through self-referral. Charities where services are offered for a small fee or on a sliding scale are marked with a ‘£’.

Organisations are listed alphabetically within their category. We do not monitor the content of third-party organisations or websites nor does this list imply any association with or recommendation for that organisation.

Cancer specific

Cambridge cancer help centre

Support for anyone with cancer together with their families, carers and friends. In addition, offer courses, complementary therapies, support groups and information.

Location: David Rayner Building at Scotsdales Garden Centre, 120 Cambridge Road, Great Shelford, Cambridge CB22 5JT

Opening times: Monday 10:00 - 13:00, Tuesday and Wednesday 10:00 - 16:00
Telephone: 01223 840105
Email Cambridge cancer help centre
Cambridge cancer help centre

Cancer support UK

Offers telephone support groups aimed at those towards the end of or post-treatment, facilitated by a trained volunteer with their own cancer experience. Groups are run in eight-weekly sessions and use CBT tools alongside peer support and shared experiences.

Elizabeth Coteman fund (pancreatic cancer support)

Offers telephone advice and support, face to face discussions or advocacy on behalf of patients with pancreatic cancer and their families.

Maggie's Cambridge

Offers free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their families and friends. Centres offer free courses, groups, meetings and activities.

Location: 21 Milton House, Puddicombe Way, Cambridge CB2 0AD (Please see our "Getting here" page for a campus map)

Hospice support

Arthur Rank hospice charity

Support is available exclusively to Arthur Rank patients, families and carers. Support includes: patient and family support team, complementary therapies and psychology team.

Referral: By healthcare professional or self-referral for bereavement


  • Cherry Hinton Road, Shelford Bottom, Cambridge CB22 3FB
  • Alan Hudson Day Treatment Centre, North Cambs Hospital, The Park, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire PE13 3AB
  • Telephone: 01223 675777
  • Arthur Rank website
Sue Ryder hospice (Thorpe Hall)

Provides expert palliative care and support for people who are living with life-limiting conditions, as well as supporting their families. They have a multi-disciplinary team including: doctors, nurses, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, complementary therapy, bereavement counsellors and psychological and spiritual support. Counsellor services are open to the community.

Other local options

Arts and Minds - Arts on prescription

Free art workshops for anyone experiencing depression, stress or anxiety.

Cambridge consultancy in counselling (£)

A mental health charity providing affordable counselling and related services to those in the local community who either can’t afford to pay market rates or wait for a GP appointment.

Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire (CPSL) Mind

Mental Health charity ensuring no one has to face a mental health problem alone. They can help make choices about treatment, understand your rights or reach out to sources of support.

Centre 33

Free, confidential help for those aged under 26. Provides support for sexual health, family problems, mental health, accommodation, money, benefits, information and counselling.

CHUMS (mental health and emotional wellbeing service for children and young people)

Provides therapeutic support in a variety of ways from a team of professionals working in psychology, social work and counselling. Helpful for young patients or carers with an underlying mental health condition.

Cogwheel trust (£)

Provides counselling and psychotherapy support for people in Cambridgeshire.

Cruse (bereavement support)

Support, advice and information to children, young people and adults when someone dies.

Locations: Cambridge, Peterborough and Huntingdon
Telephone: 0808 8081677 (Open Monday – Friday 09:30-17:00) Local lines also available (see website for more details)
Cruse website

Group therapy centre (£)

Local charity offering group therapy in Cambridgeshire with qualified and experienced therapists.

Insight healthcare

Service offers a range of talking therapies, advice, information and support.

Lifecraft (also see Lifeline)

User-led organisation for adults in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Newmarket area who have experience of mental health difficulties in their lives.

Relate (£)

Offers counselling services for every type of relationship. They provide advice on marriage, LGBT issues, divorce and parenting. They can also provide psycho-sexual counselling.


A charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide.

  • Location: Cambridge Branch, 4 Emmanuel Road, Cambridge CB1 1JW
  • Opening times: Everyday 10:30 - 22:00
  • Telephone: 116 123 (free) 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
  • Email Samaritans
  • Post: Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, Stirling, FK8 2SA
  • Samaritans website (Cambridge)
PCVS - Peterborough wellbeing service

Vibrant local scheme working closely with the local health and social care system to provide access and information to a range of services.

Support lines

Macmillan support line

The support line is staffed by trained experts and offers people affected by cancer practical, clinical, financial and emotional support. They can also offer an interpretation service in over 200 languages and accommodate those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The support line is staffed by 6 teams to cater different areas of support:

  • Cancer information and support (7 days a week, 08:00 – 20:00) answers all calls and provides emotional and practical support, or just listens.
  • Cancer information nurse specialists (7 days a week, 08:00 – 20:00) – experienced cancer nurses who can talk through specialist information on symptoms and diagnosis, treatment, living with cancer as well as palliative and end of life care.
  • Financial guidance (Monday – Friday, 08:00 – 18:00) – financial specialists can help manage finances and provide guidance on mortgages, insurance, pensions, future planning, etc.
  • Work support (Monday – Friday, 08:00 – 18:00) – help with understanding rights at work. They can provide information and guidance on talking to employers, negotiating adjustments at work and answering questions on sick pay and taking time off. They can also refer people with more complex needs to one-off legal advice.
  • Welfare rights (Monday – Friday, 08:00 – 20:00) – provides information on benefits and grants.
  • Energy advice (Monday – Friday, 09:00 – 17:00) – can help to source funding if a patient is struggling with bills.
  • Telephone: 08088 0800000 (free)
  • Contact form (reply within two working days)
  • Macmillan website

A free, confidential and anonymous telephone helpline service providing listening support and information to someone experiencing mental distress or supporting someone in distress.

Mind infoline

The team provides information on a wide range of topics including: types of mental health problems, where to get help, medication and alternative treatments, and advocacy.

  • Telephone: 030012 33393 (Monday - Friday, except bank holidays, 09:00 - 18:00)
  • Text: 86463
  • Email Mind
  • Postal address: Mind Infoline, Unit 9, Cefn Coed Parc, Nantgarw, Cardiff, CF15 7QQ
Samaritans helpline

Someone to talk to whatever you’re going through. They listen and help you talk through your concerns, worries and troubles. They will focus on your thoughts and feelings and may ask questions to help you explore how you feel.

  • Telephone: 116 123(UK and ROI, free) (24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year)
  • Welsh Language Line: 080816 40123 (hours vary by day of week, mostly evenings – see website for details)
  • Email Samaritans
  • Postal address: Chris, Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, Stirling, FK8 2S
  • Samaritans website

A national out-of-hours mental health helpline offering specialist emotional support, guidance and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including family, friends and carers.

Other types of support

Support groups

Search for support groups here.

Also, many charities for different types of cancer have support groups and helplines.


HOPE (help to overcome problems effectively) by Macmillan

The course concentrates on focusing and rediscovering your inner strengths and resilience to help you cope emotionally, psychologically and practically. Time is spent in facilitated discussions, group activities, information sharing and tools for you to try at home in between each session.

Locations: Cambridge Cancer Help Centre, or alternative options listed online or available through the Macmillan Cancer Information Centres

Take Control at Cambridge cancer help centre

The workshop brings together the most enabling and empowering aspects of the HOPE Programme, aspects which have been identified as essential to support you on your self-management journey as you strive to take control of your life. The workshop been designed to extend the option of self-management to anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis. You can attend no matter what stage you are at: whether your cancer treatment has finished or you are still currently receiving it.

Where Now? at Maggie’s

The course looks at the physical, emotional and practical issues that people face when their cancer treatment is over. You don’t have to have finished your treatment recently. The course offers the chance to explore key issues and concerns alongside other people in a similar situation. In fact one of the biggest benefits from this course that participants talk about is the peer support the group members give each other and the support they gain in hearing how others feel and manage post treatment challenges.

Information sources

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151