What to say to a loved one with cancer


When learning about a loved one’s cancer diagnosis, you are likely to experience reactions such as shock, sadness, or disbelief. In this article, Nebraska Cancer Specialists will give you tips on how to communicate with your newly diagnosed loved one and how to respond to the news.

5 ways to communicate with a loved one diagnosed with cancer

daughter caring for her mother with cancer

  • Remaining positive is important during a cancer journey, however your loved one may not want to be told to “Stay positive” or “Be strong” or “It will be okay.” Instead of those tricky phrases, try “How can I support you” or “Let’s laugh today” or “I love you.”
    Communication can be done without speaking. Let your body and facial expressions do the talking if the words aren’t flowing well. Listen, keep eye contact, and share the silence when it is appropriate.
  • Take cues from your loved one with cancer. Ask the person if they’d like to chat about their experience. It’s best to let them decide when to talk and how much they’d like to share.
  • You should be honest about your feelings, but in a way that doesn’t place a burden on your loved one. Fear, sadness, and anxiety are all natural emotions when dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Share them openly, but try to limit the length of this conversation.
  • Talk about other things besides cancer! There are so many things to chat about and talking about usual topics can help distract your loved one from their diagnosis. Taking a break can be therapeutic.

At NCS, we are patient AND caregiver focused. As a caregiver, friend, or loved one to someone with cancer, your feelings and emotions matter too. Remember that whatever you are feeling, your loved one with a diagnosis of cancer is probably feeling the same way. Use these tips when communicating about a cancer diagnosis.





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