What is self-management?

Self-management means empowering yourself and taking control of your own health. You can do this by learning information and skills to help you cope with the changes or 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 and the side-effects you may experience months or even years after treatment (late effects).
  • Changing your lifestyle behaviours to improve your quality of life, manage side-effects and reduce 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 in order to prevent new health issues from occurring.
  • Monitoring your health, recognising symptoms that may require investigation before your scheduled appointments, keeping and attending your appointments, and understanding the importance of regular, scheduled check-ups.

How can self-management help you living with or after cancer?

Cancer survivors experience issues before, during and after treatment.

You may be able to self-manage some of these physical and emotional issues. Learning how to manage the issues you’re experiencing, and how to prevent new issues or health conditions from arising can be helpful. Self-managing 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
  • assist 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 about common issues experienced by cancer survivors. Use this directory to learn about the issues you are experiencing and ways you may be able to self-manage them. 

Exercise Physiologist with patient


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 without realising 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:
  • 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 Springboard Beyond Cancer and 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 to learn from others who have gone through a similar experience.
  • Attend Cancer Council education programs such as the Cancer Wellness Program in Victoria, or 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 and the steps you want to take to improve them.

What resources are available to help you?

It is important to talk to your GP or your cancer treatment team about things you can do at home and in your everyday life to look after your health and 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 GP, search Health Direct to find one in your local area.

There are also community and non-government organisations that have helpful information, resources and tools. Ask your GP or cancer treatment team about organisations that can assist you. Also, visit the Community Support Organisations page for a list of reliable community support organisations.

Other resources that may be helpful include: 

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