I've just been told I have blood cancer
Just diagnosed: what you need to know
These pages offer some basic "need to know" information for people who’ve recently been diagnosed with leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) or myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN).
How are you feeling?
Being told you have a serious condition like blood cancer is a tough thing to hear. Some people who have a diagnosis of blood cancer describe it as feeling like they’re in a whirlwind, or that their world has been turned upside down. Others say when they got the news time seemed to stand still.
You might find you have a whole range of emotions going on, now and in the coming days and weeks. This might include feeling numb, shocked, or like this isn’t really happening. Or you might feel very sad, guilty, or angry. Many people feel frightened or alone. But however you’re feeling is normal – these emotions are a natural reaction to a very stressful situation.
You’re bound to feel uncertain about the future, and have questions about what your diagnosis means for you, and what will happen next.
These pages are designed to give you basic information about what to expect, and where to get help when you need it. You might want family and friends to read them too.
Family and friends may find our information for family, friends and carers helpful.
Other people who’ve been through something similar will understand how you feel. It may help to talk to them in our online community forum, whenever you’re ready.
Three things to know when you've been diagnosed with blood cancer
- You should be given a named key worker – Someone in your healthcare team should act as your main point of contact for everything to do with your medical care and wellbeing. This is usually a clinical nurse specialist (CNS). If you haven’t been given a named key worker, don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare team for one.
- You have rights as someone with cancer – Cancer is considered a disability under UK equality laws. This means your employer or place of education mustn’t discriminate against you while you’re ill or afterwards. You also have rights as a patient and can ask for a second opinion from another doctor at any time.
- You may be able to get financial support – Ask your GP or hospital healthcare team for advice about your financial situation. Hospitals sometimes have advisers who can help you apply for any benefits you’re entitled to. If you normally pay for prescriptions, you can apply to get prescription medicines for free.
Support for you and your family
Sometimes just talking to someone about your worries helps to ease them. We're here when you need us.
I have had some lovely chats with the Blood Cancer UK Support Services Team. They are just marvellous!
- Maria, diagnosed with T-cell large granular lymphocytic leukaemia (T-LGLL)
Talking things through gave me renewed hope
How calling our support line helped Adrian to help himself
Will I be cured?
For lots of people, this is their first question when they're diagnosed.
With some blood cancers, treatment is aiming for a cure. The first step is to put you into remission, where there’s no sign of cancer left, or the level is so low it’s no longer a problem.
Other blood cancers are chronic and can’t be cured but can be managed with ongoing treatment, so you can enjoy the best possible quality of life.
You can ask your healthcare team at any time about the aims of treatment, and what’s likely to happen in the future (your prognosis). This will depend on the type of blood cancer you have and things that are personal to you, such as your overall health.
We have information about different types of blood cancer, including the general prognosis for each type.
Having blood cancer has made me more appreciative of friends and family. On the other hand, I'm less likely to allow people to give me stick!
- Steve, diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)
Our coronavirus information hub
If you're diagnosed with blood cancer you could be at higher risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus.
If you're worried about coronavirus, or just want to know how it could affect your medical appointments, visit our coronavirus information hub.
What can I do to help myself?
Eating healthily and staying active has been shown to help people with cancer both physically and emotionally. So try following standard advice on diet and exercise from a trustworthy source. We have information on eating well and keeping active.
Smoking is especially harmful for people who’ve had chemotherapy, so if you smoke it’s best to give up or at least cut down. Your GP or healthcare team can help you if you decide to quit. The NHS has more information about giving up smoking.
Although they can’t cure cancer, complementary therapies like massage, meditation and acupuncture may help you manage symptoms and side effects or help with stress. Speak to your healthcare team about whether a particular therapy is OK for you.
You may hear that particular foods or supplements will help you, but there’s rarely any proper scientific evidence to support these claims. Discuss it with your healthcare team before trying something new, to make sure it’s safe for you and won’t interfere with any treatment you’re having.
Be holistic. Ask for help with nutrition, mental health and fitness – it’s not just about the drugs!
- Gemma, diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
Worried about anything or have questions?
Contact our Support Services Team
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Blood Cancer UK health information