My cancer has spread…Now what?

Dr Inge Kriel suggests steps to take if your cancer has metastasised (spread).

The unknown

Your doctor has just told you that your cancer has spread. As your mind is trying to process this devastating news, you may be overwhelmed with all sorts of intrusive thoughts and questions.

This is an extremely challenging time and you’re likely to feel completely lost and at sea. You may wonder why this has happened to you and what you did wrong. Another worry, may be about how to break the news to your family and how to cope with their reactions. You may be overwhelmed with how to cope with the path ahead. The unknown is frightening and a source of distress.

First and foremost

Be kind to yourself. The glass of wine you had at Christmas or the slab of chocolate you devoured after a challenging day at work did not cause your cancer to spread. This is not your fault.  

Share your burden  

Do not be ashamed of your diagnosis. Ask for help. Patients who share their diagnosis with family, friends, and work colleagues tend to cope better than patients who withdraw and isolate themselves.  

You need a support base to help you, whether that be physical support in terms of providing healthy meals and caring for kids, emotional support from loved ones, or support at work. 

Look after yourself 

In every aspect of your life – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Try to follow a balanced, nutritious diet but don’t be overly restrictive. Aim to exercise at least 30 minutes five times a week. But listen to your body, if you’re tired and in pain, then take it slow or take a break until you feel strong enough to continue.

If you’re tearful, anxious, or struggling to cope with your diagnosis then chat to your survivorship specialist, to assist with medication and referral to a counsellor or psychologist. 

Attending a support group is beneficial as you’ll meet other patients dealing with a similar diagnosis and facing similar challenges.

Make use of allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists, lymphoedema specialists, occupational therapists, acupuncturists, dietitians, etc., to help manage any symptoms you may be experiencing. Pain relief is vitally important. You don’t have to live with the pain, or suffer with symptoms associated with your diagnosis.

Financial planning 

Management of metastatic disease can be expensive. Therefore, it’s important to activate any policies you may have. Chat to your loved ones about your wishes, should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. Update your will and put advanced directives in place. It is best to be prepared for any eventuality, even if you don’t need to make use of these provisions!  

You are not in this alone 

There is a team of doctors and allied health professionals available to help you (Visit for a list). Don’t be shy to ask questions and to verbalise your needs; you are the boss!

Try not to lend your ears out to others. Each patient is unique and each cancer is unique so every journey is different. Even well-meaning family and friends can make insensitive or misinformed comments. It’s, therefore, important to source your info from reputable sources.  

Take one day at a time

And lastly, take one day at a time. You are strong and beautiful, and it is okay to fall apart before you put the pieces back together again.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

If you would like to become a part of a metastatic support group, please contact or 0860 283 343.

Dr Inge Kriel is an oncology care physician practicing at Netcare Milpark Hospital.


Dr Inge Kriel is an oncology care physician practicing at Netcare Milpark Hospital.

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