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Talking to a friend or relative who has cancer

Talking to a person with cancer can be uncomfortable. But you can stay connected during this difficult time.

Scary, confusing, unfair—whatever words come to mind when you think about cancer, figuring out which ones to share with a friend or relative with cancer can be difficult.

Fight the fear

Everyone needs hope, especially when facing illness or hardship. And there is reason for people to be hopeful about cancer.

Cancer survival rates have gone up as the disease has been detected earlier and treated more effectively. It's important to keep this in mind and focus on the positive.

Remember the person

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says it's important to accept people with cancer as the people they were and still are.

No matter how much their outward appearance may change, inside they're the same as always.

As much as they're physically able, try to involve them in the same activities you shared before they were diagnosed. Invite them to participate in as many shared activities as possible.

Listen, listen, listen

Let them set the time, place and tone for conversations about the disease. Be a good listener and don't feel you have to say something. Be open, honest and comfortable—they'll sense it and appreciate it.

Stay informed

Learning about the disease helps you and your loved one. Understanding cancer can help you cope with it. Good places to start include the National Cancer Institute, the ACS, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control.

Seek support

Everyone needs help sometimes. There are lots of support sources for people facing cancer and their loved ones. Ask your healthcare provider about support groups in your area.

Reviewed 8/31/2023

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