Caring for Someone with Cancer


As a caregiver for someone with head and neck cancer, you will face challenges of your own as you help your loved one through the cancer journey. Primary caregivers experience almost as many life changes as the person with cancer, and the tools provided here are designed to help guide you and equip you with the information and resources that will help you to support your loved one through diagnosis, treatment and beyond.
They’re still the same person you loved beforehand, and they just have some other health needs, and you just have to be able to provide support. Lynn H. (wife of a tongue cancer survivor)

Navigating the cancer journey as a caregiver

This website contains information about specific aspects of the cancer patient caretaker’s journey that you might find helpful. They fall into the following categories:

Understanding the Cancer Journey

From running errands to administering medication to emotional support, you’ll likely be called upon to assist your loved one in a variety of capacities due to treatment-related fatigue and other factors. This section reviews a number of the roles you may need to fulfill during the cancer journey.

Preparing for the Cancer Journey

This section reviews the changes your loved one may encounter during the course of head and neck cancer treatment and recovery, such as the development of swallowing disorders. We will also review steps you can take with your loved one to prevent or decrease the likelihood of these problems, such as meeting with a speech/swallowing therapist before, during and after treatment.


This article reviews information you and your loved one are likely to be presented with during the diagnosis of head and neck cancer, which includes biopsy findings, disease grade, histological subtype and stage. This section will also review how a clinician will use this information to provide a prognosis and select a treatment course.

Choosing a Cancer Care Team

You and your loved one should take an active role in choosing where to receive treatment and who will make up the cancer care team. This section reviews the roles of the cancer care team members and reviews best practices for the management of head and neck cancer, such as treatment by a collaborative multidisciplinary team with experience in treating head and neck cancer. You will also find important criteria for evaluating potential team members and/or a treatment center.

Understanding the Treatment Plan

This section covers the therapeutic options likely to be part of a treatment plan, such as surgery, radiation therapy and chemoradiation therapy, as well as treatment-associated side effects and complications. By using this information, along with information provided by health care professionals, you can help your loved one manage his or her side effects for short-term comfort and long-term recovery.

Life During Treatment

Your loved one may undergo changes during treatment, experiencing cancer-related fatigue and/or difficulty swallowing or eating. This section reviews strategies for relieving cancer-related fatigue, dealing with changes in eating and securing time off from work to receive medical care.

Life After Treatment

During the first two years after treatment, your loved one may still experience side effects like swallowing or nutritional complications, which may require short- or long-term therapy to overcome. This section looks at these hurdles to recovery and at strategies for overcoming them.

Navigating Your Finances

Finances are one of the most common concerns among people diagnosed with head and neck cancer. This section covers options for medical insurance and financial assistance from cancer organizations.

You as a Caregiver

There are several essential roles you may need to fulfill as a caregiver to meet your loved one’s daily and/or emotional needs. However, it’s also important to fulfill your own needs to continue functioning effectively. This section reviews some strategies for ensuring that everyone’s needs are met.

The Path to Remission

This section briefly reviews remission and what your loved one’s life may be like if remission is achieved, as well as the need for follow-up evaluations and the anxiety they can cause.


This section reviews how you can minimize the chances of cancer recurring, and the decisions that must be made if the cancer does return.

Life After Cancer

This section briefly reviews what life after cancer will be like for the average survivor.


Your loved one will likely choose how much medical care to receive at the end of life and where to spend this time. This section reviews some of the legal forms your loved one should complete and what roles you may play during your friend or family member’s end-of-life stage.