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Telling Others About Your Cancer
The decision to share your cancer diagnosis with others is yours and yours alone. Some people tell their inner circle of family and close friends as soon as there’s a suspicion that something may be wrong, while others try to shield loves ones from stress and worry until they receive a diagnosis.

For many cancer patients, telling loved ones helps come to terms with the reality of what’s happening. Some people find they begin to solve problems and think about other issues as their family and friends ask questions. Yet it’s important to know how much you want to share. You may want to explain what kind of cancer you have, which treatments you might need, and your outlook (or prognosis), with or without sharing further details.1

When you do decide to share the news about your cancer, just remember that people may react in several ways. Some may not know what to say, and others may feel sad, uncomfortable, or afraid to upset you. They might be also be frightened about the possibility of losing you, and sometimes people find it easier to say nothing because they’re scared to say the wrong thing.

Deciding who to tell
There’s no right or wrong way to share your diagnosis, however you may want to tell certain people first, and take a different approach with others who play different roles in your life. Here are a few tips to consider.
  • Make a list of people that you want to tell in person.
  • Create another list of friends and acquaintances you aren’t as close with. (You can always ask another friend or family member to tell them the news.)
  • When telling your children, it’s important to be prepared with an age-appropriate explanation.
  • Decide if you want co-workers to know, and how much they need to know. It may be necessary to tell a supervisor or the human resources department that you have a medical condition that may require time off.
What to (try to) avoid after sharing your cancer diagnosis
  • Ignoring relatives or friends who reach out to you.
  • Minimizing your need to talk out of fear of upsetting others.
  • Putting on a “happy face” if that’s not how you really feel. (Be honest about how you’re feeling.)
  • Thinking there’s a “right” way to interact with others. (You might not always want to talk or share, just do your best.)

  • Keeping friends and family updated
    Sharing the details of your cancer diagnosis over and over again can be exhausting, and upsetting for some. There are several time- and stress-saving ways to keep friends and family in the loop. Websites such as CaringBridge serve as a cancer-update blog of sorts, and you can limit access to those you invite or make your page public. (If you are unable to set it up yourself, ask a friend or family member.) You can also create a group chat or email list that allows you to share information with multiple people with just one message.1

    A few tips for communicating with others…
    Cancer has an impact on everyone who loves and cares about the patient. Once you’ve told your family and friends about your cancer diagnosis, ask how they are feeling—but only if you are ready to hear about their fears and worries. The goal is to keep the lines of communication open and work through questions together. These questions may ultimately lead to useful information after speaking to your cancer care team.


    La Roche-Posay created this article with materials sourced from the American Cancer Society, a trusted leader in cancer-related information and resources. La Roche-Posay is proud to partner with the American Cancer Society to provide cancer support resources and funding to the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Program.
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