What To Say To Someone With Breast Cancer (And Phrases To Avoid Altogether)

When a friend is diagnosed with breast cancer, it can be difficult to know what to say.

Suzy Thompson was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2008. She says: "People want to help, they really do. And they want to say nice things."

But sadly many don't know where to begin.

Thompson said many of her friends didn't know what to say to her, following diagnosis. One of them said: "I've had friends who have had breast cancer, I had three friends who had it and one of them survived."

This, she says, isn't helpful. And rather than focusing on the one person who survived, you - as a cancer patient - are automatically led to think about the two people who didn't.

Nancy Morris was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2015. After she told one of her friends she had cancer, her friend replied: "Oh, but my mum died."

Again, not helpful.

In the above video, the people at Newsy make a few recommendations of things to never say to a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with cancer:

  • Don't offer unsolicited advice
  • Don't say "I can imagine how you must feel"
  • Don't say "my sister/brother/friend had breast cancer"
  • Don't ask "will you lose your hair/breasts?"

But they do offer some advice on what you can say:

  • Let them know you care
  • Offer to help in specific ways
  • Keep your relationship as normal and balanced as possible
  • "I'm not sure what to say but I want you to know I care."
  • "I'm sorry to hear that you are going through this."
  • "How are you doing?"
  • If you would like to talk about it, I'm here."
  • "Please let me know how I can help."
  • "I'll keep you in my thoughts."
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