- Cancer Information
- When you are first diagnosed
- Emotions and cancer
- The others in your life
- How to tell family and friends
How to tell family and friends
When you feel ready, decide who to tell and what to say. To prepare for these conversations, you could:
- choose a quiet time and place, if possible
- think of answers to likely questions (but only answer if you want to – you don’t have to share every detail)
- accept that the person you are telling may get upset – in some cases, you may find yourself comforting them, even though you are the one with cancer
- get help finding the right words – for example, you could meet with the hospital social worker or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to talk through what you might say.
People usually don’t mean to make things worse. Their reactions are likely to come from their own difficulties in handling feelings such as fear and anxiety, or from uncertainty about what to do or say.
Dr Anna Hughes, Liaison Psychiatrist and Psycho-oncologist, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Mary Bairstow, Senior Social Worker, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Anita Bamert, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria, VIC; Sally Carveth, Assistant Coordinator, Cancer Support Leader Program, Cancer Council NSW; Matt Featherstone, Consumer; Dr Charlotte Tottman, Clinical Psychologist, Allied Consultant Psychologists and Flinders University, SA; Shirley Witko, Senior Social Worker, Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.