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Cancer Health Center

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Cancer Support: Family, Friends, and Relationships - Topic Overview

A cancer diagnosis changes your life, but it also affects the people who care about you. You're already dealing with your own distress about having cancer. And it can be hard to talk about it when you know people who care about you will be upset by the news.

You may wonder:

Recommended Related to Cancer


Approximately 1.6 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2014.[1] Many patients diagnosed with cancer will eventually require support from a family caregiver. In fact, family caregivers form the foundation of the health care system in the United States, supporting advances in treatment such as multimodality treatment protocols given in outpatient and home settings.[2] Definition: Who Is the Caregiver? Also referred to as informal caregivers, family...

Read the Overview article > >

  • "How can I tell my children?"
  • "How will my friends react?"
  • "How do I even begin to tell people about this?"

It helps to think about how and what you want to tell family, friends, and coworkers and to understand how people may react.

Family and friends

It may be easier if you prepare for those conversations ahead of time:

  • What do you want people to know? Think about what you do and don't want people to know about your cancer. If someone asks a question you're not ready to answer, be honest. Say something like, "I'm not really ready to talk about that," or "I don't know how I feel about that right now."
  • What topics are off-limits? Think about topics that are off-limits for you. Maybe you'd prefer that people not say things about God, religion, or faith. Or maybe you would rather not hear stories about other people who have had cancer. It's okay to say, "I know you're trying to help, but I don't find those stories very helpful right now."
  • What kind of support do you want? Many people will ask what they can do to help you. Think about how you will respond to offers of support and help. It's easy to say you don't need any help, especially when you're used to doing everything yourself and taking care of others. But supporting you will make other people feel good. And you'll probably find that you really do appreciate the help. Think about making a list of a few things that others could do for you.

Don't feel that you need to act cheerful or strong if that's not how you're feeling. It's okay to share your true feelings and act the way you feel.

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