There are various different types of helplines, many of which are offered by charities. As with other forms of cancer support, some of them are for specific types of cancer, including the Ovacome Support Line (number and opening times at the end of this post) and some are for people affected by any kind of cancer, such as Cancer Research UK’s Nurse Line and the Macmillan Support Line.

Each helpline will offer its services in a slightly different way, but most will offer listening, a chance to talk about what’s on your mind when you call, emotional support and information, including directing you to other sources of help.

Helplines can be a valuable source of support, as they are an opportunity to discuss your concerns in confidence with an impartial person who isn’t someone you know in your day-to-day life. You don’t need an appointment and can call at any time during their opening hours when you feel that it would help to speak to someone. Depending on their capacity, there may not be someone available to take your call right away and you may need to wait, leave a message or try again another time.

As well as listening and emotional support, helplines can also be a source of information, for example about treatments, side effects and clinical trials. Some people find it helpful to call a helpline before an appointment to talk through the questions and issues that they would like to cover when they speak to their doctor.

It’s important to be aware that helplines can offer information but not medical advice and they’re not a way of getting a second opinion. You can find more information about second opinions here. Even if the person you’re talking to is a nurse, they won’t be able to give you a diagnosis or advise you on which treatment option would be right for you. Only a health professional who is seeing you as a patient and has access to your medical records can do this.

Calling a helpline for the first time can be daunting. Helpline staff know that callers will often be feeling nervous and will understand if you need a moment to think about what to say or if you become emotional during the conversation. The helpline is there to offer you as much support or information as they can.

There are some situations in which a helpline on its own might not be the most appropriate form of support for you. On most helplines, you won’t speak to the same person each time you call, although it may be possible to arrange a regular call (such as the Ovacome ‘Call Me’ service). If you feel that you need more structured support to explore your thoughts and feelings and how they’re affecting your life, you may benefit more from one to one counselling. If you’re seeing a counsellor, you can also call a helpline or access other types of support such as a group.

If you would like to share your experiences of helplines or have any tips for someone thinking of calling one for the first time, please comment on this post. If you would like information or support, please contact our Support Line on 0800 008 7054 10am-5pm Monday-Friday or email [email protected]