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Talking About Cancer

By Abby Henry Singh September 3, 2015Pearls of Wisdom Blog

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or you are a long term survivor, talking about cancer can be difficult. How do you communicate with you healthcare team? How do you tell friends and family? How do you tell your children about your diagnosis? What about strangers? The way you discuss cancer, like many topics, depends on your diagnosis and your personal preferences for how you want to share your story. Below learn a few strategies for talking to different people about cancer.

Your Healthcare Team

To ensure you are getting the best care, you need to be able to communicate with your healthcare team. If you do not feel comfortable, try finding a new oncologist if possible. Or, try reaching out to other members of your team, such as your nurse or nurse navigator. Ask questions, even if you feel like they are silly. It’s your body; you deserve to know what’s going on with your body and your treatment plan. Always let your healthcare team know about any new or worsening side effects so your team can help you create a plan to manage them and maintain quality of life.

Friends and Family

Talking to your spouse, friends, family, or a support group can help you manage your negative feelings associated with cancer such as anxiety or depression. These people care about you. Let them help you! It is important to know that you are not alone. If you want to share your journey with everyone in your life, consider starting an email chain, private Facebook group, or creating a page on

On the other hand, you may choose to keep your cancer journey private. The choice is yours. Remember when family, friends, coworkers, or other acquaintances ask about your diagnosis, they are genuinely concerned about your well-being. You can share with them as much or as little information as you like.

With Your Children

Children are very perceptive, no matter their age. While you may wish to protect your children by not telling them about your diagnosis, even young children will be able to tell that something is wrong. Not knowing what is wrong may cause them more stress and anxiety.Tell the truth and answer questions honestly. If your children are young, details may not be appropriate, but let them know what is going on and allow them to ask questions. Let your children know that it is okay to cry or be upset. Cancer is difficult for everyone. Look for support groups in your area. Many places offer support groups for children and teens whose parents have a cancer diagnosis.

With Strangers

If you lose your hair from treatment or have visible scars, strangers may ask about your diagnosis. Have a response prepared so you are not caught off guard. Try not to let it bother you too much when this happens. Although it may come off as rude, perhaps the person is also a cancer survivor or a caregiver. Again, you may share as little or as much as you like. It’s your story.

Abby Henry Singh

Author Abby Henry Singh

Manger Content, Outreach, and Outcomes Abby Henry Singh is a native of Sevierville, Tennessee, and a graduate of Belmont University with a bachelor’s degree in English and history. She has been a member of PearlPoint Cancer Support for over 5 years. Previously, Singh was the Program and Outreach Manger for the Lupus Foundation of America, Mid-South Chapter where she worked to raise disease awareness and support those diagnosed with the disease through educational programs. She is a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and the Belmont English alumni book club.

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