What to say when someone has cancer

Posted 4 years ago

What to Say When Someone Has Cancer


You have cancer.” It is usually at that moment that the world stops for someone who received a diagnosis. Any information they hear after that is often a blur. As a loved one who might be present at the time of the initial diagnosis or later informed of the diagnosis, you might be at a loss of what to say. 

What to say when someone has cancer

Express Empathy, Not Sympathy

It is rather common for those living with cancer to feel as though people around them feel sorry for them and are treating them differently. Rather than conveying how sorry you are about the cancer diagnosis, be more empathetic. Try saying:

I can’t even imagine what you must be feeling right now. I’m here to help; however, I can.

Avoid statements that can be minimizing their personal experience with cancer by saying, “It could be so much worse.” I’m sure we can all agree that every cancer journey is different. However, it is all relative, and such a sentiment can lead to your loved one feeling as though their situation does not warrant them feeling how they do.

Show Up, Be Present

Do not feel pressured to fill the silence with words. Show up. Be present. Your loved one wants to know that they matter. Instead of telling them what they should be doing, ask how you can support them along the way. Try to avoid other common euphemisms like, “Everything happens for a reason.”  

Share A Message of Hope

Unless your family member asks, be cautious when sharing stories of others you may know with cancer. If they want to hear patient stories share those you know who are surviving and thriving. What your loved one needs at the time of diagnosis is a message of HOPE! 

This will help serve as a beacon of light for what is most likely their darkest hour. Cancer patients wrestle with their mortality daily; they do not need to hear stories of those that have perished. What to say when someone has cancer

The Impact of Cancer

Understand that cancer is a chronic illness. There is a preconceived notion that this disease only impacts the patient during active treatment. However, for several patients, depression, and anxiety can emerge once treatment is completed. Cancer patients need time to adjust to life after cancer. Be patient with your loved one and show them some grace. There may be new memory issues due to chemo brain fatigue or other side effects that might prevent them from achieving the level of functioning they were at before being diagnosed. 

We Are Here to Help

If you struggle with the best way to support your loved one on their cancer journey, we are here to help. Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers has a Caregiver Support Group that is held the third Saturday of every month, from 10 am-12 pm at our Chandler II location: 685 S. Dobson Rd. Chandler, AZ 85225.



About Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers

Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers (ICRC) is the largest multi-specialty oncology network in the Greater Metro Phoenix area. They have over 100 medical providers, a robust Integrative Services program and a dedicated clinical research department. Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers has 15 valley locations and five comprehensive cancer care centers that offer a multi-disciplinary approach for expedited personalized patient care. For more information, please visit www.ironwoodcrc.com.