Talking to your class about cancer
Talking to your class about cancer can seem daunting, but it’s essential that young people learn the facts as cancer affects us all.
Your pupils will probably have heard of cancer, whether or not they have been directly affected by it. It is likely that they will have their own ideas and beliefs about it. Sometimes these can be misguided or misinformed. Talking about cancer with your class can be a good way to address any myths or fears they might have.
Talking about cancer in school is something which needs careful thought and preparation. If there are any pupils in your class who you know have been directly affected by cancer, this shouldn’t discourage you from talking about it. You may wish to ask them if they would like to be involved in your preparation, so that they can know what will be said. This might also show other pupils that it is okay to talk openly about cancer.
We have more information about cancer types, treatments, symptoms and side effects, and information about living with cancer.
These will differ according to your pupils and their age, but some guidelines are:
Always try to answer any questions honestly. Don’t worry about saying that you don’t know the answer but that you can find out together.
Ask your pupils what concerns they might have, and try to talk through them.
Try to support your pupils’ feelings. They may want to talk through their concerns with you, the school nurse, another adult or our cancer support specialists.
Explain that there are many things people can do to reduce their chance of getting cancer, for example by living a healthy lifestyle and by not smoking.
Some of the main messages that it would be good for your pupils to understand are:
It is nothing you have done that caused cancer.
You can’t catch cancer from anyone else.
Some lifestyle choices reduce the chance of getting cancer, for example daily exercise, and others increase it, for example smoking. But it’s not possible to say why some people develop cancer and others don’t.
People don’t always die if they get cancer. In fact more and more people are surviving cancer.
Cancer mostly affects people over the age of 65. Childhood cancer is very rare, and most children who are diagnosed with cancer survive.