Understand cancer

Sharing your cancer diagnosis

Learn ways to share information about your cancer diagnosis with loved ones

Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer is hard to deal with all alone. You have full control over if, when, and how much you share about your diagnosis.

Talking about your cancer diagnosis

From the National Cancer Institute (NCI)

The information below is based on information originally published by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the US government’s main agency for cancer research.

Talking about it may not be easy at first, but for many people, sharing thoughts and feelings about cancer helps them cope. Here are some tips for you:

Sharing Cancer Diagnosis With a Good Listener

Choose a good listener

You may not need someone to give you advice or tell you what to do. Instead, you may want someone who wants to hear about and try to understand what life is like for you right now. You may need to look outside your family to find such a person.

When to Share Your Cancer Diagnosis

Choose a good time to share

Sometimes people will send signals to let you know they’re willing to talk about cancer with you. Sometimes you can ask others about their thoughts and feelings.

Share Your Emotions

Understand feelings of anger

Sometimes angry words come from emotions other than anger, like frustration, worry, or sadness. Try to figure out why you feel angry and why you need to express it. Don’t run away from these feelings—share them and try to understand them.

Share Your Anger

Be true to your feelings

Remember that it’s okay to be in a bad mood. You don’t have to pretend to be cheerful when you’re not. This can keep you from getting the help you need.

Telling Others About Your Cancer Can Be Difficult

If you’re not ready to share

You have full control of when, if, and how much you share about your diagnosis. Although talking about it may not be easy at first, most people find that sharing their thoughts and feelings helps them deal with their cancer.

Cancer Support Group May Help When Dealing With Cancer

Turn to community support

You might find it helpful to talk about your feelings with people who aren’t family or friends. Instead, you might want to meet in a support group with others who have cancer or talk with a counselor. Check out these online resources and organizations in your community.

To find more information, keep reading Taking Time, an NCI resource that may help you and your loved ones understand what you may be going through.

Sharing Cancer Diagnosis With Your Children

How to talk to a child about a loved one’s cancer diagnosis

Here’s help for telling your child that someone they love is seriously ill.

5 minute read
Recommended Books That May Help Children Understand Parent's Cancer Diagnosis

Recommended books

The books below are divided by age group and focus on helping children better understand their parent’s cancer diagnosis.

For younger children:

  • Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings by Ellen McVicker
  • Hair for Mama by Kelly A. Tinkham
  • Nowhere Hair by Sue Glader

For older children:

  • Our Family Has Cancer Too by Christine Clifford
  • The Year My Mother Was Bald by Ann Speltz