Just Diagnosed: Breaking the News


by Sarah Strohl

nd1Telling loved ones about a new cancer diagnosis can sometimes be a battle in and of itself. The news brings with it a variety of doubts and isolating thoughts.

“What if everyone starts treating me differently?”

“I don’t want to put them through this.”

“They just won’t understand.”

Everyone has their own way of dealing with a diagnosis, but one important thing to remember is that no one should have to cope with cancer alone. Telling your loved ones about what you are going through will provide you with a support group to rally around you when the going gets tough.

There is no right or wrong way to break the news. Every individual and family group is unique, and each diagnosis brings its own set of circumstances. You may choose to share everything openly right away, or it may take a while to find the words and the right moment. When you decide that the time is right, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Choose your support group

You do not have to personally share your news with the whole world. Sometimes, it is helpful to make a list of close friends and family members you wish to talk with in person. If you like, you can entrust another family member or friend to share the news with less close friends.

These are situations in which it might be a good idea to talk to someone directly about your cancer:

  • When your diagnosis affects another person’s life.
  • When they see you are acting differently.
  • When you want to explain things that have changed since your diagnosis.
  • When you need somebody to listen.

As your recovery progresses, also know that it is okay to not share everything with everyone all the time. Creating a new, private Twitter account is sometimes a good way to keep a chosen few updated throughout your battle without expending the time and energy to repeat information to anyone who asks.


nd3One of the hardest parts about breaking the news to loved ones is their reactions. Friends and family members will have to deal with some degree of shock and may have a million questions of their own. They may feel sad, scared or uncomfortable, and may be afraid of upsetting you by expressing their thoughts and concerns.

In each conversation, be sure to take time to listen without interrupting, and then ask them to do the same for you. Let them know that it is okay to express whatever emotions they may be going through. You can also direct them to the “We Can Help” section of our website for more specific information and resources.

Be Age Appropriate

When talking to children, the conversation will depend on the age and personality of the child. Younger children will need shorter conversations without complicated medical jargon, and older children and teens might want to know the facts. In all cases, let them know that it is okay to be scared, and that they can talk to you and ask questions at any time.

You’re Not Alone

Here at LIVESTRONG, our goal is to prepare you the best we can for this journey. We are here for you and your loved ones every step of the way. Please give us a call at 1.855.220.7777, fill out our online intake form or visit the LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center at 2201 E. 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 for free support.


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