What is self-management? 

Self-management means empowering yourself and taking control of your own health. You can do this by learning skills to help you cope with the changes and issues that you may experience during and after your cancer treatment. Self-management recognises that you are the expert on ‘self’: your body and your health. 

Self-management can involve: 

  • Reducing the impact that cancer and its treatment have on your quality of life. This includes the side-effects you experience during and after your treatment. It also includes side-effects you may experience months or even years after treatment. We call these side-effects late effects 
  • Changing your lifestyle behaviours to improve your quality of life. Benefits include managing side-effects and reducing the risk of your cancer coming back. Lifestyle behaviours you can change include: 
    • Improving eating habits and reducing alcohol consumption 
    • Increasing exercise 
    • Quitting smoking 
    • Reducing sun exposure
  • Looking after yourself and your health to prevent new health issues from occurring
  • Monitoring your health 
  • Recognising symptoms that may need investigation before your scheduled appointments 
  • Keeping and attending your appointments 
  • Understanding the importance of regular, scheduled check-ups

How can self-management help me live with or after cancer? 

Cancer survivors experience issues before, during and after treatment. 

You may be able to self-manage some physical and emotional issues. Learning how to manage the issues you’re experiencing can be helpful. So too is learning how to prevent new issues or health conditions from arising. Self-management and taking an active role in looking after your health can:

  • Improve your quality of life 
  • Help you to feel more in control 
  • Reduce the impact that the issues you are experiencing have on your day to day life 
  • Get you back to the activities you used to enjoy doing and that give you a sense of fulfilment 
  • Help you with returning to work or study

Issues you may be able to self-manage include: 

  • Fear of your cancer coming back or progressing 
  • Cancer-related fatigue 
  • Anxiety and depression 
  • Issues with your thinking and memory 
  • Pain 
  • Difficulty sleeping

The Common Survivorship Issues Directory provides useful resources and information. It includes common issues experienced by cancer survivors. Use this directory to learn about the issues you are experiencing and ways you can self-manage.


man on a bike

What does self-management look like? 

There are lots of things you can do to start taking an active role in looking after yourself. Below are some examples of how you can self-manage. You may already be doing some of these things and not realise that they are self-management tools and strategies. 

  • Talk to your GP or cancer treatment team about the issues you are experiencing. Don't wait for them to bring it up. They can provide you with information, tools and resources to help you self-manage 
  • Learn and understand your health conditions and any challenges you are experiencing. You may already know a lot. Learn from trustworthy and reliable sources. For example: 
    • Contact Cancer Council 13 11 20 or a community support organisation 
    • Visit the Common Survivorship Issues Directory. This has useful resources and information about some common issues cancer survivors may experience
    • Talk to your doctor and treatment team at the hospital 
    • Read booklets and fact sheets 
    • Listen to podcasts 
    • Watch videos and webinars
  • Set goals for yourself about the things you want to work on. Tell your health professionals about these. For example, if you want to exercise more, your goal could be to go for a 20-minute walk each day, for the next month. Visit Health Direct to help you get started with some goals 
  • Make decisions with your GP or cancer treatment team about your health and the next steps. Ask questions if you need more information or are not sure what the next steps are. Use the ACSC fact sheet Questions you may wish to ask about the time after treatment for question ideas  
  • Attend support groups. You can learn from others who have gone through a similar experience 
  • Attend Cancer Council education programs such as the Cancer Wellness Program in Victoria. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for information about programs in other states 
  • Talk to your family, carer, partner or friends about the issues you are experiencing. You can also discuss the steps you want to take to improve them 

What resources are available to help me? 

It is important to talk to your doctor or your cancer treatment team at the hospital. You can talk about the activities you can do at home and in your everyday life. Talk about how you'll manage any issues caused by your cancer or cancer treatment. They can provide you with helpful information, resources and tools. If you don’t have a regular doctor, search Health Direct to find one in your local area.  

Community and non-government organisations also have helpful information, resources and tools. Ask your doctor or cancer treatment team at the hospital about organisations that can help you. 

Other resources that may be helpful include: 

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