Perfecting Communication After a Cancer Diagnosis

Perfecting Communication After a Cancer Diagnosis

b-present Team | February 23, 2023

Cancer is a difficult and life-changing experience that can significantly impact an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. Good communication skills can help build trust, alleviate anxiety, and improve the overall experience of managing cancer. These skills are essential when seeking or offering support after a cancer diagnosis. Without clear communication, problems can arise, expectations can go unmet, feelings can get hurt, and the mental health of all involved can suffer as anxiety, fear, withdrawal, and isolation mount.


Active Listening

The first step in practicing good communication is to be an active listener. This means giving your full attention to the person speaking, acknowledging their feelings, and responding in a supportive and empathetic manner.

For example, if a friend is telling you about their cancer diagnosis, listening attentively, validating their feelings, and expressing your support is critical.

Be Honest

Another important aspect of good communication is being honest and transparent. This means being truthful about what you know and what you don’t know and avoiding giving false hope or sugarcoating the situation.

For example, be honest and acknowledge when you don’t know what to say. This is likely new territory for both of you, and it’s okay not to know what to say. You can embrace the silence and use it as quiet time to reflect.

Respect Boundaries

Remember to be respectful of the person’s boundaries and needs. This means being sensitive to their emotional state, mindful of their physical limitations, and respecting their decisions.

For example, if a colleague is undergoing chemotherapy, be mindful of their fatigue and avoid scheduling meetings at times that would be difficult for them.

Avoid poor communication practices

  • Interrupting the person speaking
  • Dismissing their feelings
  • Giving unsolicited advice

For example, if a friend is telling you about their cancer diagnosis and you interrupt them with your own story or dismiss their feelings by saying something like “at least it’s not stage 4,” it can make them feel unsupported and invalidated.

Communication is a two-way street

Good communication is a two-way street and is key to every aspect of the cancer experience, the quality of our connections, and ultimately our experience as a survivor or supporter. Remember to be aware of your own communication style and be open to learning and practicing different techniques to support and help others in the best possible way.

Learn more about supporting a friend: