Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

How to talk to friends and family

How to talk to friends and family image

As treatment progresses you will probably want to talk to someone close to you about your cancer; talking may help you accept your situation and work out solutions to some issues.1,2

Family and friends may want to support you, but may not know how. A first step is to be honest with them, and share as much factual information about your cancer as possible. As your treatment advances the following tips for talking to family and friends may be useful:

  • Explain what kind of cancer you have, and tell them about the treatment you are receiving2
  • Tell them the truth; let them know how things are going even if they are not going well3
  • You might find it easier not to try to hide your emotions; tell them honestly how you feel at the moment2
  • Keep them informed about any changes in your prognosis and life expectancy1

Talk to friends and family in the way that feels right for you; this may be in person, on the telephone, or by email.3 Here are some suggestions for creating a relaxed environment for conducting a face-to-face conversation:3

  • Find somewhere quiet to talk
  • Sit comfortably, so you will be relaxed
  • Switch off the television and your smartphone, so you will not be disturbed or distracted

If friends and family have any questions you cannot answer, write them down and ask your doctor.1  

Above all, remember that it is up to you how much information you share; if you have told other people enough for now do tell them that you would like to change the subject.2



  1. American Cancer Society. Telling others about your cancer. Accessed March 2016.
  2. American Cancer Society. After diagnosis: a guide for patients and families. Accessed March 2016.
  3. Macmillan. Telling your friends and family you have cancer. Accessed March 2016.