How do you talk to someone who has cancer?

When someone close to you has cancer and starts to talk about it, do you change the subject? Do you stay quiet, worried that you’ll say the wrong thing? If so, you’re not alone. Many people don’t know what to say to a person who has cancer.

When talking with someone who has cancer, the most important thing is to just listen. Try to hear and understand how they feel. Don’t make light, judge, or try to change the way the person feels or acts. Try to put your own feelings and fears aside. Let them know that you’re open to talking whenever they feel like it. Or, if they don’t feel like talking right now, that’s OK, too. You can offer to listen whenever they’re ready.


The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: January 25, 2017

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