How to Talk to Someone Who Has Cancer

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A cancer diagnosis comes with many feelings and emotions. Some of the most common feelings are sadness, anger, confusion, helplessness, hopelessness, and depression. The person with the cancer diagnosis needs support from friends and family, as well as a comforting presence. It’s not easy knowing exactly what to say to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. Regardless, it’s much better to stay in touch. Continue reading for some tips on how to talk to someone who has cancer.

Allow the Person with Cancer to Lead

Oftentimes the person who has been diagnosed with cancer needs some time to process their diagnosis. You should ask them if they want to talk about the situation. Allow them to decide when and how much to share with you.

Show Non-verbal Support

You can show support without using words. Your body language and facial expressions can convey the support needed in this disastrous situation. Keep eye contact, show that you’re listening attentively, and avoid distractions when speaking. Be sure to also provide comfortable silence rather than feeling the need to fill the room with constant, needless chatter.

Choose the Right Words

Be sure to accept how hard this diagnosis is for the person. Carefully choose your words so that you show support rather than dismissing the topic. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know what to say.” It would be preferable to, “You’ll be okay” or “I know how you feel.”

Listen Actively

Give your full attention. Do not use the time the person is speaking to think of a response to their words. It’s okay to remain silent while thinking of a response or having no response at all. Avoid hurrying the conversation or forcing it to end. 

Ask Questions Cautiously

Be sure to phrase your questions with caution. Also, keep in mind not to ask too many questions. People with cancer are often bombarded with questions from friends and family, which can become draining.

Only Give Advice When it’s Okay

Ask for permission to give advice or to make a suggestion. Also, be prepared to stop if asked. 

Be Honest About Your Feelings

Be sure to communicate your feelings, whether they are anger, sadness, hopelessness, or whatever else. Keep your explanations brief, however. Don’t dive too deeply into discussing your emotions with the person who has cancer or it may be overwhelming. It may cause unnecessary stress to them and cause them to become even more upset than they already are. Remember that they are dealing with all those emotions as well.

Talk About Other Topics

Talking about usual topics may help provide some sense of normalcy. Do not try to distract the person or make them “forget” about their cancer. That’s impossible. Just try to convey that there’s still some form of balance. It’ll help to take a break from difficult conversations.

Encourage the Person to Stay Involved

Help the person who has been diagnosed with cancer stay involved with their usual activity and routine. While there are some activities they won’t be able to return to, try to find the ones that they can keep doing. These steps can help the person cope with their diagnosis.

Consider Practical Support

Ask the person if they need any practical support, such as help running errands, caring for pets, driving the person to appointments. Offering support with specific activities beats saying, “Let me know if you need any help.” People often have a hard time asking for help and may find it easier to ask if you specifically state which errands you might be able to help with.

Get Medical Help

A cancer diagnosis can be devastating. It can change every aspect of someone’s life. However, it can be made easier with the right help and support. Surgery and other cancer care services may be needed to possibly help treat cancer. Nevada Surgery and Cancer Center offers several cancer care services, such as colon and rectal surgery, gynecological surgery, gynecologic oncology, genetic testing and counseling, Femilift, and more. Contact us for help if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer.