How to break the news that you have cancer

October 31, 2018 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

It can be scary to tell your friends and family about a cancer diagnosis. You may feel nervous talking about the subject or unsure about how your friends and family will react. Here are some answers to common questions that may help you feel more comfortable about sharing your news:

  1. How should I began sharing the news of my diagnosis? 

    Take a minute to process the information your doctor has given you first. It can feel overwhelming to be told you have cancer. Once you come to terms with your diagnosis and worked through your feelings about it, think about who you want to tell, when you want to tell them, and how you want to share the news.

  2. Who do I need to tell about my diagnosis?

    Most people need or want to talk to someone as soon as they have news to share, but you do not need to tell everyone about your diagnosis and treatment plan. You may only want to tell your loved ones and a few close friends. At the very least, you should tell people closest to you so they can be a part of your support system.

  3. Do I need share the news with my coworkers?

    It’s probably a good idea to let your boss know about your diagnosis, especially since you may need to adjust your work schedule during treatment. Under federal and state laws, some employers may be required to let you work a flexible schedule to meet your treatment needs. Next, you could let trusted coworkers know.

  4. How do I tell my friends, family and others about my diagnosis?

    Choose an environment that is comfortable and private to deliver the news. Decide ahead of time how much you want to share, write out what you want to say, and stick to the facts. Your friends and family will likely want to know information about your treatment and what they can do to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and be specific about your needs — running errands, making meals, helping with childcare, etc.

  5. How much do I need to share?

    Decide ahead of time what you are comfortable sharing with people. There may be some details you want to keep private. If someone asks you a question that is too personal, you can tell them you’d rather keep that information private or change the topic entirely. If you feel comfortable enough, give others a chance to ask questions.

  6. How do I stay in contact with everyone throughout my treatment?

    It can get exhausting to share the information over and over again. Designate a point person who your friends can contact for updates regarding your care. There are websites available that can help you share the details of your care like CaringBridge, which enables you to connect with all of your friends and family at once.

Everyone has different coping styles, so prepare yourself if people do not respond the way you thought they would. Try not to not take anything personally. Once you move past telling others about your news, you can focus on your treatment, rest and recovery.

Related blogs:

5 tips for newly diagnosed cancer patients

What to say to someone recently diagnosed with cancer

Don't let cancer mess with your relationships 

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