Radiotherapy centre - woman with cancer embracing adult

Support Therapies To Help Cancer Patients With Recovery

Cancer treatment is improving all the time, but for the best results, action needs to be prompt and aggressive. Doctors will advise either a course of chemotherapy, surgery to remove the tumour, treatment at a radiotherapy centre, or often a combination of the above for the best chances of survival. 

While these intense treatments are necessary to shrink the size of the tumour or eradicate it entirely, they need to be undergone in conjunction with other support therapies, as patients need more than just medication to get over their cancer experience.

As radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery can be depleting, it is important to have the right support in place to build patients back up, both physically and mentally, so they can make a full recovery. 

Additionally, it means the years they have added to their lives through the invasive treatments can be worthwhile, as they have been able to keep their bodies fit and healthy and have managed to mentally cope with the trauma of facing their mortality. 

What are support therapies?

Unlike chemo or radiation therapy, which kill the cancerous cells in the body, support therapies look after the patient when they are undergoing this intensive treatment. 

This helps them respond to medication better and enables them to feel mentally and physically strong during this difficult time.

Mental health support

One of the most important forms of support for cancer patients is being able to talk to a counsellor about what they are going through. 

It can be an extremely anxious time for patients, who naturally think the worst, so it is usual to feel very apprehensive and stressed.

Many people also fall into depression, as they may lose hope after multiple treatments or struggle to cope with the harsh side effects of chemotherapy, which can include sleep problems, sickness, and fatigue. 

Other symptoms, such as anaemia, infections, hair loss, nausea, weakness, loss of appetite, mouth sores, and memory problems, can also be difficult to deal with, leaving some patients feeling extremely low. 

Cancer is very difficult to deal with emotionally, from receiving the diagnosis to completing treatment and everything in between. 

Not only are patients instinctively scared, but not being able to feel like their usual self, being angry that this happened to them, holding guilt their loved ones have to go through this too, and feeling lonely and that nobody can relate, can be particularly difficult to handle for many. 

So it is important to speak to a therapist about the trauma, and any raw emotions it brings up. 

It is also a difficult time for the rest of the family, which is why having sessions together can be helpful as well. 

Nutritional guidance

Cancer, as well as the curative treatments, can take a big toll on the body. Therefore, the best way to boost recovery is to look after it as much as possible. 

Diet plays a huge part in this, as it is essential to get the right nutrients to fuel the body properly, so it can regain strength and recover fully and quickly. 

Having nutritional support is, therefore, sensible, as experts can provide dietary guidance to make sure the patient is getting the vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates they need. 

They also help to manage weight, making sure patients do not lose too much if they are being sick or lose their appetite, as malnutrition is often seen among cancer patients, leaving them weak and unable to fight infections.

Conversely, they can guide people to lose fat at an appropriate rate, if this is deemed beneficial for their recovery. 

Nutritionists and dieticians can also advise what foods to eat to boost the immune system, which is essential as this will be extremely low after the treatments, and what meals may be easier to stomach if vomiting and nausea is a problem. 

The National Cancer Institute recommends:

  • Eating high-protein foods to make sure protein targets are met.
  • Swapping solid foods for milkshakes, smoothies or soups if swallowing is difficult. 
  • Consuming small meals throughout the day, as this is easier to stomach.
  • Having foods that are bland, gentle on the stomach, and easy to digest. 
  • Eating dry foods, such as toast and crackers, particularly first thing in the morning when nausea can be worse.
  • Having food at room temperature, instead of hot or cold. 
  • Avoiding skipping meals, as this will make sickness feel worse.
  • Rinsing your mouth after eating and in between meals. 
  • Sitting upright after vomiting to avoid it happening again. 
  • Sipping water throughout the day. 
  • Eating soft foods if mouth ulcers are a problem. 
  • Avoiding citrus, acidic, salty, or spicy foods. 

What type of food patients will be able to hold on will depend on them individually, but as long as they make sure their diet is full of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, protein, healthy fats, dairy or a dairy substitute, and water this will help improve their recovery and make them feel more energised and stronger.

Mind-body therapies

Many people really benefit from mind-body therapies, as this enables them to relax during a difficult time, improve their overall wellbeing, and reduce side effects.

These include the likes of meditation, art therapy, music therapy, yoga, tai chi, hypnotherapy and other relaxation techniques. 

The benefits of these include reducing anxiety and stress, feeling less anxious or depressed, being able to cope with chronic pain better, feeling more relaxed, being able to express their feelings, improving self-confidence, and helping with fatigue. 

Yoga has also been found to help patients to sleep, with insomnia being a common symptom, help patients feel stronger mentally and physically, and make them feel less tired. 


Some patients find acupuncture very helpful when they are undergoing cancer treatment, as this can relieve some of their unpleasant side effects and relieve pain. 

Those who have a weakened immune system or a low number of platelets due to their treatment should avoid acupuncture, despite its benefits, as they are at greater risk of infection and bleeding. 

However, those who are able to receive the therapy might find it helps boost their flow of energy and, as it releases endorphins, it can relieve pain and improve patients’ moods.