The benefits of talking

When life is hard, people often feel the need to talk about what is bothering them. Talking releases stress and helps us feel better. Finding the words to describe events and feelings can help to make sense of them. And, being listened to and heard can help reassure someone with cancer that they are not going through difficult times alone.

People with strong emotional support tend to adjust better to the changes cancer can bring to their lives. If someone doesn’t have anyone to talk to, they are more likely to be anxious and depressed. Support from family and friends can make a real difference.

If someone you know has cancer, you may feel you don’t know what to say or worry you’ll say the wrong thing. But if you are open and sensitive to their feelings and respect their wishes, you won’t go far wrong.

There is no perfect phrase that is the ‘right’ thing to say. Often the most important things are just listening to the person and keeping in touch. Remember, your relative or friend is still the same person they have always been.

Some people worry that if they talk to their relative or friend about the cancer or its treatment, they will make them even more distressed. But talking about fear or distress does not generally make it worse. Often, talking can help.

If you’re not sure what to say, just say hello. But don’t be a stranger!


An important way to support someone with cancer is to be there for them. Cancer can be isolating, and the emotional impact can carry on long after treatment has finished.


Back to If someone has cancer

How to talk

If your friend or relative has cancer, talking openly will help you understand their experience and build mutual trust.

Looking after yourself

Supporting a person with cancer can be both rewarding and demanding. Make sure you have the support you need.