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Talking About My Diagnosis

The decision to talk about your cancer is an intensely personal and private one. You’re the only person who can decide when to talk with your family and friends about your disease, and you should do it on your terms.

It’s entirely normal – and appropriate – to have a wide range of emotions. As you begin your treatment, medications can also affect your emotions. You may find talking to others can help you come to terms with your diagnosis.

Most patients discuss their diagnosis with their spouse or partner first. When you decide you’re ready to talk with others, here are some things to consider:

  • Decide who you want to talk to and when you’re ready to talk with them.
  • Decide how much information you want to give. For some, you may want to share more in-depth details about your diagnosis, your treatment plan, and your emotions.
  • It may be necessary to speak with your supervisor or human resources department at work prior to starting treatment if you need to take time off. Again, you can provide as much information as you’re comfortable providing – or as little as needed.
  • Talking with children and grandchildren will depend on their age. Keep the information age-appropriate, and try to describe your illness in terms they will understand.
  • Some people may ask questions or want more information than you feel comfortable providing. It’s okay to change the subject.
  • People are likely to offer to help – and have a genuine desire to do so. Take them up on their offer. You may not know what you need, but try to ask them to do something specific.
  • Be honest about your feelings and emotions. If you find yourself feeling depressed or overwhelmed, speak with your doctor immediately.

The American Society of Clinical Oncologists and the American Cancer Society have several resources for talking about cancer.