Your partner

Communication plays a big part in any relationship. But conversations about your cancer may not always be easy. You or your partner might feel lost for words or unable to talk. You may even feel guilty for bringing up a painful topic.

There is no right thing to say. But discussing your fears or concerns can be comforting and strengthen the bond between you. It may also help you both find new ways of looking at your situation. Allow yourselves the time and privacy to recognise your emotions. Gestures, body language and touch will also help express how you feel.

Listening has an important role. The more you understand each other’s perspective, the easier talking will be. And remember, sometimes humour can go a long way too.

If talking to your partner is difficult, you could try speaking to family, friends or healthcare staff.

Talking to your partner

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, both they and their partner will experience a range of different emotions. There are also practical issues to consider, for example, work, finances, visits to hospital and telling family and friends.

Talking about cancer and the impact it has can be an important way to help you both cope with it. But remember, you or your partner may not always want or feel able to talk.

Reasons why talking may be difficult:

  • You don’t know what to say.
  • You want to talk but your partner doesn’t want to.
  • You feel you shouldn’t talk about the illness or the future.
  • You don’t know how to encourage your partner to talk.
  • You don’t want to say anything that may make things worse.
  • You may feel guilty about how you feel.

People often get comfort from talking to each other. Talking about something can also help you understand how you feel about it.

Acknowledge the emotions you’re feeling. Allow yourselves to be sad and upset – this is a natural reaction to bad news. It’s important to make sure both you and your partner have enough time and privacy.

Discussing your fears or concerns can help put them into perspective. Talking about something important or personal can create or deepen the bond between a couple, and this can help both of you feel appreciated and supported.

Talking is one way to communicate, but facial expressions, body language, gestures and tone all contribute to how we express our thoughts, feelings and ideas.

If talking to your partner is difficult, you could talk to family or friends. You could also speak to your GP, or your cancer doctor or nurse.


Listening is an important part of communication – we all like to feel we’ve been heard, especially when talking about a serious issue. Making sure you’re both comfortable and that you have enough time is important.

Silences need not be awkward, and they can give you a chance to focus your thoughts. Remember that humour can be important too and that touch can sometimes express what you mean more than words.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, there isn’t something in particular that you should say. Listening and talking can help you both understand, as much as you can, what the other person is feeling. The more you understand each other’s feelings and thoughts, the easier it will be to communicate.

We have more information about being there for someone with cancer, which you might find helpful.

Back to Who should I talk to?

Healthcare staff

There are ways to get all the information and support you need from healthcare staff.

Benefits of talking

Talking about your cancer can help you make decisions and feel less anxious.