What do you say to someone with cancer?


Quick Answer

When speaking to someone with cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends making statements that express sincere concern and support, such as, "I am here for you if you need anything." Another suggestion is to say, “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.” ACS warns against telling cancer patients to remain positive or saying things that trivialize their valid fears.

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Full Answer

Avoid over-empathizing with cancer patients unless you have also been through the same experience, according to ACS. It may seem logical to express an understanding of the hardships that someone with cancer is facing, but each patient's struggles are unique, and it is impractical to assume exactly how someone feels. The same is true when discussing past experiences with a friend or family member who has previously battled cancer. Gently broach the topic, and expand upon details only if the patient seems interested.

Using humor to diffuse some of the stress a patient faces can be beneficial, but be careful not to offend a patient, especially if attempting jokes regarding the topic of cancer specifically. In these situations, ACS suggests following a patient's lead and only approaching subject matters that are proven acceptable. People with cancer are likely to want to hear from friends and family that they are looking well, but ACS warns against making negative comments about patients' appearances when their appearance is poor.

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