Youth cancer frequently asked questions
Q: Does marijuana cure cancer?
A: No it doesn’t. It can cause you a lot of health problems, and remember it’s illegal.
Q: Can I take drugs or drink alcohol?
A: If you do take drugs or have a big night out tell your doctor or health care provider. Drinking in moderation can be ok. Be truthful about your alcohol consumption.
Q: I have heard that my urine might change colours. Is this true?
A: Some treatments can change your urine’s colour. But other things, like urine infections can also cause changes. Tell your doctor if you notice anything unusual.
Q: Will I be vomiting all the time?
A: No. Different chemotherapy medications will have different side effects. Some of these can make you feel sick and vomit, but lots of people find they hardly feel sick at all. If you are feeling sick or you are vomiting, your doctor can organise medications to help reduce that feeling.
Q: Is cancer contagious?
A: No, cancer is not contagious.
Q: Is chemo addictive?
A: No, chemo is not addictive.
Q: Are all cancers hereditary?
A: No, not all cancers are hereditary. But some cancers can be more likely to happen if someone in your family has had cancer. That doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get cancer from your parents, or that you will give cancer to your kids.
Q: Can I play sport during my cancer treatment?
A: Yes, you can play sport at certain times during your treatment but you must be careful and check with your doctor first. Sometimes your doctor might restrict the type of sport that you can play, for example contact sports or sports that can be dangerous.
Q: Does every cancer patient lose his or her hair?
A: Not every cancer patients loses their hair. This depends on the type of treatment.
Q: How often do I need to put cream on my skin when I am having radiotherapy?
A: Put cream on your skin at least twice a day from the very first treatment and even after the end of your treatment.
Q: Can I wear sunscreen during radiotherapy sessions?
A: No, because it blocks the radiotherapy.
Q: What happens if my skin starts to blister?
A: Ask the nurses to put some dressings on the blisters.
Q: Is radiotherapy a breeze?
A: Each treatment is quick and painless. But they can cause side effects which can be tough to deal with.
Q: How will I be feeling during my radiotherapy treatment?
A: You may feel tired or develop mouth ulcers or have difficulty swallowing.
Q: What is TBI (Total Body Irradiation)?
A: TBI is used to destroy all the cancer cells in the body before a bone marrow transplant.
Q: Will I be able to have kids in the future?
A: Some cancer treatments can affect your ability to have children in the future. Ask your doctor about ways to preserve your fertility.
Q: Will I become impotent?
A: Not necessarily, no. But some people find they have temporary issues getting an erection.
Q: Is cancer an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection)?
A: No, cancer is definitely not an STI. But cervical cancer can be more likely to happen with a virus which can be sexually transmitted. Remember you can't catch cancer by having sex with someone who has cancer. Remember though you can catch a STI – so use protection every time.
Q: Is it true I have to use condoms if I do have sex whilst on chemotherapy?
Yes this is very important to use protection for both oral sex and intercourse until all the chemo has left your body. This may take 72 hours. Although it’s not always safe to have sex so ask your nurse, doctor or someone you feel comfortable talking to about this.
Q. What about pregnancy?
If you think there is even the slightest chance you might be pregnant ask your nurse / doctor to test you on diagnosis. You shouldn't get pregnant while on chemotherapy treatment and other drugs. They can temporarily damage your sperm or eggs and you could have a miscarriage or a baby with serious birth defects.
Q: What are some things I need to consider for the future?
A: This is different for everyone. Some things you may want to think about are having babies, fitness, eating habits, education, relationships, mental health.
Q: Is it OK to feel anxious, upset and depressed after cancer?
A: Depression and anxiety are common for cancer survivors. Just because you are off treatment or cancer free doesn’t mean you are going to be happy. It is OK to be sad even though you’ve been given a ‘second chance’ – this does not make you ungrateful.
Remember there is always some-one you can talk too or check out the youth beyondblue website.
Q: What if I don’t feel like the same person after cancer?
A: You may have a different outlook on life and your views and opinions may change. You may find that your cancer experience has changed you as a person, or not at all. You may be one of those people who ‘appreciates life and the little moments’ as a result of your illness or you may not. It is all ok.
Q: Should I be looking for signs of cancer after I have finished my treatment and who can I talk to about this?
A: It is important to know your body. Don’t overlook symptoms, but also be aware that you have a normal body. Even after you stop seeing your oncologist regularly, it is a good idea to build a new doctor/patient relationship with a GP you can trust and have yearly check-ups
Q: What do I do if I don’t want my parents around when I speak to the doctor?
A: Ask to see your doctor on your own or ask someone from Youth Cancer Services to help arrange a separate meeting with your doctor. You may have questions you don’t feel comfortable asking in front of your parents. That’s ok. You don’t have to take your parents with you to fertility appointments if you are embarrassed.
If you are uncomfortable in a situation, don’t be afraid to speak up.
Q: Can I go to the Gp or see my doctor without my parents?
A: Yes once you are 16 you can get your own medicare card and then you can go on your own. You can apply for your own medicare card online.
Q: What do I do if I need help?
A: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask your parents, friends, the Youth Cancer service, your doctor, your social worker. Ask whoever you feel most comfortable with, and whoever you think can help you the most. Sometimes it can be hard for your family or friends to give you all the help you need, so don't forget there are lots of people like the Youth Cancer Service nurses and social workers.
Lots of young people worry about asking for help, because they think their family and friends are already dealing with too much, or have their own problems to worry about.
Q: I feel angry all the time. What can I do?
A: It’s ok to feel angry. Talk to someone about your feelings. The Youth Cancer nurses and psychologists can be a really useful service for you – they might have some tips or ideas to help you deal with your feelings. And you don't have to worry about offending or upsetting anyone in your family or friends. Remember too exercise can help
Q: Will people remember me as the person who had cancer?
A: Cancer is something that happened to you but it is not who you are!
Q: I need a wig. How will I know what looks good?
A: Take someone you trust and will be honest when buying wigs. By the way, wigs can be really expensive, so it might be a good idea to ask someone (like a cancer nurse or a social worker) if there are organisations that can help you pay for your wig.
Q: What if I don’t feel like having visitors or I want to see a specific person?
A: It is ok to kick people out, and it is also ok to ask people to see you. Tell people you aren’t up for visitors if you aren’t. You can say no.
Q: What will hospital be like?
A: Hospital and chemo can be pretty boring. Sleep when you feel like it. You might need earplugs if there are lots of noises at night. The gowns are revealing so remember to ask for two.
Q: I have kids – can I bring them with me to my treatments?
A: Different hospitals have different rules. It will usually be ok for your children to visit – but you will need to check to see times or safety concerns for your kids, particularly if you are in an adult hospital.