New ACS Book Guides Friends Through Cancer Experience

How to Help Your Friend with Cancer Cover

How to Help Your Friend with Cancer is an easy-to-read, straightforward guide to helping a friend with cancer. It includes suggestions for what to – and what not to – say and do for your friend, her caregivers, and her family. (The book is written for men as well as women, but the author uses “her” throughout the book for simplicity.)

Author Colleen Dolan Fullbright says friends can have a significant impact on a cancer patient’s experience. She writes from personal experience as a breast cancer survivor and from her extensive research on the psychological consequences of cancer.

“It became very apparent to me how important friends are after I read the results of a study that found those who were married fared much better with diagnosis and treatment,” said Fullbright. “The study’s author also noted that whatever ‘it’ is about a marriage might be something that any friend or loved one can do for a patient.”

Fullbright begins each chapter with an anecdote from her cancer experience or someone else’s, then lists practical ideas for helping. For example, she says you should stay in touch with your friend, let her talk, and then listen. But you should not tell her about people you know who’ve died from cancer, suggest that a positive attitude alone can cure her, or tell her how to feel.

The chapter on caregivers and family members lists ways to support caregivers and help any children in the family. “A primary message of the book is that family members become ‘second-order patients.’ The family is suffering too,” said Fullbright. “Friends may be so focused on the cancer patient they don’t realize how much it’s helping if they are helping the family in practical or other ways.”

Fullbright says she hopes that after reading the book people will be more attuned to their friend with cancer, understand it’s a vulnerable time for her, and recognize that the experience will affect her life and that of her family forever.

How to Help Your Friend with Cancer and other books about emotional support for cancer are available through the American Cancer Society online bookstore.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.


American Cancer Society news stories are copyrighted material and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.