How to Tell Your Friends and Family About Your Cancer Diagnosis


After being diagnosed with cancer, WhatNexters have felt anxious about how their loved ones will react. There is no set rule on when or how to tell loved ones about a cancer diagnosis. Some WhatNexters have been surprised by how accepting, comforting, and understanding their family and friends have been.

“Within days of diagnosis I told my siblings by phone since we are spread about the country. I kept them updated by email or phone as treatment plans progressed. They were great about respecting my needs over their ‘wanting to know’.” --spunkys thumbnail SpunkyS, Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma, Stage IV

Talking to family

“Your team isn't just doctors and nurses, but also family and friends, and even strangers. There are so many aspects of the journey ahead that you can never prepare for. Accepting help and gathering a support system is critical. It also helps to know you are not alone in the journey.” -- carolLHRN thumbnail CarolLHRN, Colorectal Cancer

Related Article: How to Tell Your Children You Were Diagnosed with Cancer

WhatNexters recommend reading the American Cancer Society’s Guide on Telling Your Family and Friends about your diagnosis. This guide provides advice based on the realization that the patient must tell their loved ones when and how they are comfortable, and that it is different for each person. It addresses how other people may react, telling your children, and how to keep life as normal as possible. It also provides personal testimonials from cancer survivors and how they have handled telling their loved ones.

Here are some tips shared by other WhatNexters that have gone through this process before you.

  • "When I was comfortable, I included my family and then told them what I needed and when I needed it. Most loved ones just want to help." -- karen1956 thumbnail karen1956, Breast Cancer, Stage IIIA
  • I processed all the overwhelming feelings and let other people in when I was ready. -- smt4 thumbnail SMT4, Thyroid Cancer, Stage III
  • I thought of it as sharing any other aspect of my life such as hobbies, job, kids, or whatever it may be. -- nancyjac thumbnail nancyjac, Inflammatory Breast Cancer, Stage IIIB
  • I told my friends proudly. I knew that they would be proud of me for fighting it. -- gregp_wn thumbnail GregP_WN, Hodgkin Disease, Stage II

If you are looking for extra support as you prepare to share your story with others, do not hesitate to reach out to other WhatNexters who have already gone through the process. You can also call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for more helpful information Do you have any advice for someone newly diagnosed who is dealing with how to tell their loved ones that they have cancer?

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  • 1 Comment
    • just2ez2004's Avatar
      just2ez2004

      My Mom went with me to the ENT who told us it may be cancer and suggested the Surgeon so she already knew. I waited until after the Biopsy results came back before telling my day and 1 of my sisters, as my dad just had a kidney removed because it was cancerous and my 1 sister has stage 4 lung cancer. They both took it well, my sister has been telling me more about her experiences, that she hasn't let others know. Even though we both know that my treatments will be different, I think it helps keep her mind off her pain and makes her feel better that she can help me. She is in the last stages of her life and is only taking morphine for pain and comfort she promises to help me through my treatments, now that's true love.

      about 6 years ago