Seeking support
When you are first told you have cancer, you may feel a range of emotions, such as fear, sadness, depression, anger or frustration. It may be helpful to talk about your feelings with your partner, family members or friends, or with a hospital counsellor, social worker, psychologist or your religious or spiritual adviser. Sometimes you may find that your friends and family do not know what to say to you. They may have trouble dealing with their feelings too. Some people may feel so uncomfortable that they avoid you. This can make you feel very lonely. You may feel able to approach your friends directly and tell them what you need. You may prefer to ask a close family member or a friend to talk with other people for you. A serious illness may cause practical and financial problems. You do not need to face these alone. Apart from offering emotional support, a social worker may be able to suggest useful tips to help. Ask at your hospital, your community health centre, or ring the Cancer Helpline.
Many services are available, including:
• financial assistance, which may be available for transport costs to medical appointments, prescription medicines, or through benefits or pensions. Contact the social worker at your hospital.
• home nursing care, which is available through district nursing, or through the local palliative care service—your doctor or hospital can arrange this.
• meals on wheels, home care services, and aids and appliances, which can make life easier—contact the hospital social worker, occupational therapist or physiotherapist, or your local council.
Cancer helpline    
The Cancer Helpline is part of the Cancer Council. It is a free, confidential service where you can talk about your concerns and needs with specially trained staff. The staff can send you information and can put you in touch with services in your area. Telephone 13 11 20. top of page  
Multilingual cancer information line  
The Multilingual Cancer Information Line is a free and confidential service of the Cancer Council. You can call and speak to a specially trained nurse with the help of an interpreter. It is for people with cancer, and people who are close to them. People who speak any language can use the service. top of page  
  Cancer support groups  
  Cancer support groups offer support and information to people with cancer, their family and friends. It can help to talk with others who have gone through the same thing. Support groups can also offer many tips and ways of coping. Your hospital may run cancer support groups: check with your doctor, nurse or social worker, or contact
the Cancer Helpline. top of page
  Cancer connect  

Cancer Connect is a program run by the Cancer Council. It connects people who have melanoma or other cancers with volunteers who have had these cancers. All volunteers are trained and supported by a program coordinator and the cancer nurses from our Cancer Helpline. If you would like to talk with a Cancer Connect volunteer, call 13 11 of page

  Living with cancer education program  

The Cancer Council’s Living with Cancer Education Program provides information on cancer and ways of coping with it. The program runs over several weeks. Groups are small, with plenty of time for talking. Courses are held at hospitals and community organisations throughout Victoria. Contact your hospital social worker or the Cancer of page

  Caring for someone with cancer  

Caring for someone with cancer can be very stressful, especially when it is someone you care about very much. Look after yourself during this time. Give yourself some time out, and share your worries and concerns with someone outside. You may have to make many decisions. You will probably have to attend many appointments with doctors, support services and hospitals. Many people have found it helpful to take with them a family member or close friend. It also helps to write down questions before you go, and to take notes during the appointment. Many cancer support groups are open to patients and carers. A support group can offer the chance to share experiences and ways of coping. A range of support services such as home help, meals on wheels and visiting nurses can help you cope with treatment at home. These are provided by local councils, the Royal District Nursing Service and the palliative care services. As well, there are organisations and groups that can provide you with information and support, including Carers Cancer Connect. The Cancer Helpline can tell you about other services. Phone 13 11 20. top of page


Most of the words listed here are used in this website, others are words you are likely to hear used by doctors and other health professionals who will be working with you.

anaesthetic A drug given to stop a person feeling pain. A ‘local’ anaesthetic numbs part of the body, usually the skin; a ‘general’ anaesthetic causes temporary loss of consciousness.

benign Not cancerous. Benign cells are not able to spread like cancer cells.

biopsy The removal of a sample of tissue from the body, for examination under a microscope, to assist diagnosis of a disease.

computerised tomography (CT) scan The technique for constructing images from cross-sections of the body, by x-raying the part of the body to be examined from many different angles.

dermis One of two main layers that make up the skin. The dermis is the second layer, which contains the roots of hairs, glands which make sweat, blood and lymph vessels and nerves.

epidermis One of two main layers that make up the skin. The epidermis is the surface layer, which contains basal cells, squamous cells—which contain keratin, a protective substance that resists heat, cold and the effects of many chemicals - and melanocytes - which produce melanin.

genes The tiny factors that control the way the body’s cells grow and behave. Each person has a set of many
thousands of genes inherited from both parents.

haematoma An accumulation of blood in the tissues that clots to form a solid swelling.

immune system The body’s natural defence system. It protects against anything it recognises as an ‘invader’ or ‘foreign’, for example bacteria, viruses, transplanted organs and tissues, cancer cells and parasites.

lymph nodes/lymphatic system Lymph nodes are small, beanshaped structures which are part of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system, which protects the body against ‘invaders’, like bacteria and parasites. It is a network of small lymph nodes connected by very thin lymph vessels, which branch into every part of the body. The lymph nodes filter the lymph to remove bacteria and other harmful agents,
such as cancer cells.

magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) Similar to a CT scan, but this test uses magnetism instead of x-rays to build up cross-sectional pictures of the body.

malignant Malignant cells can spread (metastasise) and can eventually cause death if they cannot
be treated.

melanin The brown pigment, produced by melanocytes, which gives the skin its colour. Its role is to protect the body against the damaging effect of the ultraviolet rays present in sunlight and tanning machines in solariums.

melanocytes Cells in the epidermis and elsewhere that produce melanin.

melanoma Cancer of the melanocytes. The cancer usually appears on the skin, but may affect the eye and mucous membranes. Excessive exposure to UV radiation contributes to the development of melanoma on the skin.

metastases Also known as ‘secondaries’. Tumours or masses of cells that develop when cancer cells break away from the original (primary) cancer and are carried by the lymphatic and blood systems to other parts of the body.

pathologist A person who works in a laboratory to diagnose disease and understand their nature and cause.

positron emission tomography (PET) scan A technique that is used to build up clear and very detailed pictures of the body. The person is injected with a glucose solution containing a very small amount of radioactive material.
The scanner can ‘see’ the radioactive substance. Damaged or cancerous cells show up as areas where the glucose is being taken up.

prognosis An assessment of the course and likely outcome of a person’s disease.

sentinel node The first lymph node that a tumour drains into through the lymphatic system.

tumour A new or abnormal growth of tissue on or in the body.

ultrasound Sound waves of a very high frequency (higher than the human ear can hear). If ultrasound is directed at the body it is reflected back differently by different types of tissue. In an ultrasound scan, these differences are measured and used to build up pictures of structures in the body.

ultraviolet (UV) radiation The part of sunlight that causes sunburn and skin damage. It is also produced by solariums, tanning lamps and sunbeds. Ultraviolet radiation is invisible and does not feel hot.

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  Victorian Melanoma Service : the Alfred Hospital, Commercial Rd Prarhan T 03 9076 0365