Cancer Society information and supportive care services

Your local Cancer Society provides confidential information and support.

The Cancer Information Helpline is a Cancer Society service where you can talk about your concerns and needs with trained nurses. Call your local Cancer Society and speak to supportive care services staff or phone the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).

Local Cancer Society centres offer a range of support services for people with cancer and their families. These may include:

  • volunteer support including drivers providing transport to treatment
  • accommodation while you’re having treatment
  • support and education groups
  • contact with other people with cancer.

The range of services offered differs in every region so contact your local centre to find out what is available in your area.

Contact with other people with cancer

Cancer Connect NZ arranges telephone peer support calls for people living with cancer and their caregivers. Call the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) for more information.

Cancer Chat is an online support and information forum to join.

"I needed to feel a bit more in control. I knew there would be support for me there at the Cancer Society." Colleen

Cancer support and education groups

Cancer support and education groups offer support and information to people with cancer and their families. It can help to talk to others who have gone through the same experience. Support groups can also offer many practical suggestions and ways of coping. Ask your hospital or local Cancer Society for information on cancer support groups in your area.

The Cancer Society has developed a programme called Kia Ora e te Iwi which is beginning to be offered around the country. Ask your local Cancer Society if this is available in your area.

Financial assistance

Help may be available for transport and accommodation costs if you need to travel some distance to your medical and treatment appointments. Your treatment centre or local Cancer Society can advise you about what sort of help is available.

Financial help may be available through your local Work and Income office. Work and Income has pamphlets and information about financial assistance for people who are unable to work. Currently, as of 2012, short-term financial help is available through the Sickness Benefit and longer-term help is provided through the Invalid's Benefit. Extra help may be available; for example, accommodation supplements and assistance with medical bills.

More information is available on the Ministry of Social Development's website or by phoning 0800 559 009.

Benefits and entitlements

If your illness is temporary and you can't work or seek work, you may be able to get the Sickness Benefit. To receive this:

  • you must be over 18 years of age, or
  • 16 to 17 years old and living with a partner and supporting children.

If your illness is long term and you are permanently and severely disabled or ill and can't work, you may be able to get an Invalid's Benefit. The Invalid's Benefit is paid at a higher rate than the Sickness Benefit.

It is advisable to apply for a Sickness Benefit which can be granted quickly and then be transferred to the Invalid's Benefit if you"re eligible. Hospital social workers, oncology social workers at treatment centres or your local office of Work and Income can help you with any queries.

Home care

Nursing care and equipment may be available through community health services. Your doctor or hospital can arrange this.

You may be entitled to assistance with household tasks during your treatment. For information on what help may be available, contact your hospital social worker or the District Nursing Service at your local hospital.

"The Helpline was great. I rang and said 'Help! I can't do this on my own". Arthette

Interpreting services

New Zealand's Health and Disability Code states that everyone has the right to have an interpreter present during a medical consultation. Family or friends may assist if you and your doctor do not speak the same language, but you can also ask your doctor to provide an interpreter if using family members is inappropriate or not possible.

Managing cancer in the workplace

Most people who work and have treatment for cancer find that returning to work as soon as possible stops them feeling isolated and helps to get them back to 'normal" again. Many people, because of financial reasons, need to work through their cancer treatment.

Some of your workmates may be unsure of what to say, or may try to protect your feelings or their own by saying nothing. Some might take the attitude, "If we pretend David never had cancer, it will go away". Some assume that if you look well and can function, you are all right. It is often easier to get on with workmates if you can be quite open about your cancer. The Cancer Society has an information sheet titled "Managing Cancer in the Workplace" for employers and workmates that you might like to pass on to your manager to read. For more information, call the cancer information nurses on the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).

Cancer: Insurance, legal and employment issues

Many employers will be supportive when an employee is diagnosed with cancer. However, if, after a diagnosis of cancer, you feel that your employer treats you unfairly or harshly, there are ways to challenge this. The Employment Relations Act 2000 protects employees and a person can file for personal grievance. You will need to seek advice from the Department of Labour Employment Relations Service or phone 0800 800 863.

Some people living with cancer may be able to claim, or make use of, various benefits from personal insurance policies they hold, such as life insurance, disability income or income replacement insurance. Providing your cancer is not excluded as a 'pre-existing condition", your medical bills for treatment and operations may be reimbursed. This is dependent on the particular policy you hold.

Palliative care

Palliative care is an approach to caring for people with cancer and their family that focuses on improving their quality of life and is not just about care at the end of life. This can be offered in a hospital, rest home, at home or by a hospice service.

Palliative care may be used during:

  • times when your illness is causing discomfort; for example, pain, shortness of breath or nausea and vomiting
  • periods when your thoughts and feelings are distressing
  • occasions when your illness may be having a big impact elsewhere in your life – maybe with your partner, children, family/whānau, work or, perhaps, your financial affairs.

The Cancer Society has a booklet for people with advanced cancer titled Advanced Cancer/Matepukupuku Maukaha: A guide for people with advanced cancer. To receive a copy, call the cancer information nurses on the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237), contact your local Cancer Society for a copy or view and download a copy from the Cancer Society's website.

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