Telling those close to you about your diagnosis is not easy. However, the cancer journey is also hard and having the support of those who care about you will certainly help.  It is usually difficult to hide the fact that you have cancer from family and friends; they will eventually find out one way or another.

Who, when and what to tell

Deciding whom to tell is a very personal decision. You should share your diagnosis with whomever it feels right to. This may be family members, friends and colleagues.

You may still be finding it difficult to even say the words “I have cancer”. You may not want to upset yourself or upset others. You should only talk to your family and friends when you feel comfortable doing so.

They will likely want information about your cancer and treatment plan. Decide in advance how much detail you want to share with them. If they want to discuss your cancer in greater detail than you are comfortable with, let them know. Only share as much information as you want. You can also recommend a reliable source where they can learn more about your cancer, such as

If you want to keep everyone updated, you might want to ask a family member or close friend if they can be your “spokesperson.”

Common reactions

Everybody is different so you cannot predict how someone will react to the news of your diagnosis.  A common reaction is a desire to help and “be there for you”. However, those close to you may have some of the same reactions that you had when you received your diagnosis, such as shock, disbelief, fear, sadness and denial.

If you are disturbed by a reaction, you may want to let that person know. Remember though that people often do not know how to react to upsetting news. They may feel awkward or uncomfortable. They may simply be unprepared to react in a supportive and comforting way. You may want to give them some time to adjust to the news.

Links to more information

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Talking to Your Family and Friends about Breast Cancer

Talking about Cancer
Canadian Cancer Society

Telling Your Family and Friends
American Cancer Society

Sharing the News
Cancer and Careers

Talking about Your Cancer
Macmillan Cancer Support

Sharing Your Story
American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)

Telling Friends and Family (video)
Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

Talking to Your Family (video)
John Hopskins Medicine

Breast Cancer – How it Affects Others (video)