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How To Support Someone With Breast Cancer

Things That Wont Help:

5 Ways to Be a Good Friend to Someone with Breast Cancer

Its normal to not know what to say to a friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. While just being you and giving her your time can be greatly beneficial, there are some things that probably wont help:

  • Dont tell her about the latest cure or treatment youve heard about.
  • Dont burden her with your fears or worries.
  • Dont tell her horror stories about other people with cancer.
  • Dont give up on her or stop ringing or visiting.
  • Dont tell her how she should be changing her lifestyle or diet. It may be hard enough for her to get out of bed in the morning.
  • Dont tell her to be positive. That may make it hard for her to talk to you about how she really feels.

The Emotions They Might Feel

You might find that their mood changes from one moment to the next. This is a normal response to a diagnosis of cancer. There are a whole range of emotions that they might experience including:

  • anger
  • grief

Having an understanding of these emotions can help you to support them.

We have a section all about cancer and emotions, which you may want to look at.

What Else Do I Need To Know

Breast cancer can change the lives of those affected and those around them. Get help on how to talk about tough subjects, stay flexible, make adjustments, deal with change and stay open and honest with each other about feelings, needs and expectations.

Want to learn more about breast cancer? Read our other Fact Sheets or visit our section on Support.

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Need Someone To Talk To Necesita Hablar

Feeling overwhelmed? Call our Breast Care Helpline and talk with one of our trained and caring staff members. The helpline can help you find more information, talk you through your questions or just help you get through a rough spot. Call the breast care helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN , Monday through Friday, 9am to 10pm ET or email at Se habla Español.

Finding Someone Else To Talk To

How to Support Someone Going Through Breast Cancer ...

Its important to find a trusted confidant with whom you can discuss your most intense fears and concerns as well as your hopes. You may find that your spouse, life partner, or other relative or friend can play this role. If they cannot, consider going outside your usual circle of family and friends to find someone you can talk to. This person might be:

  • a member of the clergy
  • social worker
  • psychologist or other mental health professional
  • doctor or nurse
  • another person with breast cancer
  • another cancer survivor

It does not matter who this support person is what is important is that you have someone who allows you to speak openly. Some hospitals and cancer centers offer mentoring programs that match people who are newly diagnosed with others who have already been through treatment. Another option is a breast cancer support group, where you can meet many other people who know exactly what you are going through. Visit the Discussion Boards to talk to others going through breast cancer.

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Offer To Go To Appointments

If your friend feels overwhelmed, offer to go to doctor appointments to take notes and ask questions she might not think to ask. Be sure to check with her health care provider beforehand to understand their visitor policy.

You can also be a chemo buddy. Driving her to and from, as well video chatting with her during chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments, is a bigger help than you may ever realize. Not only will your friend appreciate the company and encouragement, it can also give her caregiver a break.

Special Considerations For The Workplace

Breast cancer diagnosis and treatment affects everyone differently. How your colleague is dealing with their diagnosis is a personal thing, although she is probably experiencing physical andemotional distress on some level.

The best way to help your colleague will depend on the type of work she does, the kind of treatment she is undertaking and whether or not she needs or wants to work.

Some women return to work as quickly as possible because they crave the normality and companionship that work offers. Others need time away from work to deal with breast cancer and its treatment. If youre not sure what will help your colleague, you may find the following suggestions useful:

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That Sounds Like A Good Decision

Perhaps your friend chooses a doctor who youve heard mixed reviews about or isnt the one another friend told you is the best in the region.

Gowrinathan advises to keep it to yourself. Its best to validate your friends decision.

Its really easy to second-guess yourself in terms of who you choose to treat you, she says. Be supportive of peoples choices, even if its not what you heard.

Unsolicited advice, even if youve had breast cancer, is often well-meaning but ill-received.

I know we all come from a helpful place but its invasive, Muradian says. It backfires. Now, youre inundated with what to do and someone elses experience. That pushes the other person away.

If youve had breast cancer before and are open to sharing recommendations and experiences, its best to put the ball in your friends court. Let them process things at their own pace and make decisions that work best for them.

Well, I understand what you are going through, and if you want to talk through my experience, Im here for you, Muradian says. You dont know what stage theyre in, so its all about being compassionate and mindful.

Ways To Support A Loved One Who Has Breast Cancer

Cancer Facts : How to Help Someone Who Has Cancer

You just received a shocking phone call a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Now youre wondering: How can I help?

Tina German, RN, CBPN-IC, a certified breast patient navigator at TriHealth, explains the best ways to show support for a family member or friend who is going through a breast cancer diagnosis.

Also Check: How Long Can You Live Stage 4 Breast Cancer

What You Can Do: Notes And Calls

Make sure your friend knows that theyre important to you. Show that you still care for your friend despite changes in what they can do or how they look.

  • Send brief, frequent notes or texts, or make short, regular calls
  • Ask questions
  • End a call or note with Ill be in touch again soon, and follow through
  • Return their messages right away
  • Check in with the person who helps with their daily care to see what else they might need

What You Can Do: How To Offer Support

Some people find it hard to accept support even when they need it. Dont be surprised or hurt if your friend refuses help. Its not you. Its more about pride and their need for independence.

  • Provide emotional support through your presence and your touch.
  • Help the caregiver. In doing so, youll help your friend. Many people are afraid of being a burden to their loved ones.
  • Offer practical ideas on what you can do to help, and then follow through.
  • Assume your help is needed, even if there are others also helping out.
  • If your friend needs medical equipment or money for treatment, you can look into getting something donated or organizing ways to help raise money,

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Be Prepared For Some People Not To Help

When someone has a serious illness such as cancer, friends and family often reach out to help. And sometimes people you don’t know very well also want to give you a hand. But it’s important to realize that there are others who may not be able to help you. You might wonder why someone wouldn’t offer to help you or your family when you’re dealing with so much. Some common reasons are:

  • Some people may be coping with their own problems
  • Some may not have the time
  • They are afraid of cancer or may have already had a bad experience with cancer. They don’t want to get involved and feel pain all over again
  • Some people believe it’s best to keep a distance when people are struggling
  • Sometimes people don’t realize how hard things really are for you. Or they don’t understand that you need help unless you ask them for it directly
  • Some people feel awkward because they don’t know how to show they care

If someone isn’t giving you the help you need, you may want to talk to them and explain your needs. Or you can just let it go. But if the relationship is important, you may want to tell the person how you feel. This can help prevent resentment or stress from building up. These feelings could hurt your relationship in the long run.

Being A Good Listener

How to Support Someone With Breast Cancer

A good listener tries to be aware of someones thoughts and feelings as much as they can. You dont need to have all the answers. Just listening to a persons concerns or worries can be hugely helpful.

A good listener tries to really tune in and listen to a person in the moment. Listening is an important part of providing emotional support.

Here are some tips on how to listen well.

  • Try to keep the setting private, relaxed and with few distractions.
  • Maintain eye contact but dont stare.
  • Let the person with cancer lead the conversation and try not to interrupt.
  • Give your full attention to what they are saying.
  • If youre finding it difficult or upsetting dont change the subject say how you feel, this can prevent any awkwardness.
  • If they cry, dont try to cheer them up. Reassure them that its OK to be sad and that its a normal response to whats happening to them.
  • A friendly touch of the hand can help but if they pull away give them space.
  • Try not to give advice unless they have asked for it.
  • Dont use humour unless they have used it themselves.
  • Silences are OK, dont feel like you have to fill them with words.

This video has top tips from people affected by cancer on how to listen to someone with cancer. It is 54 seconds long.

How to listen to someone with cancer – Top tips from patients

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Helping Someone You Love Through This Scary Time

In 2001 Marsha Silver was buttoning up her blouse after a repeat mammogram when the radiologist walked in and announced, “Sure looks like breast cancer to me.” Stunned, Marsha left the office and immediately called her husband Marc at work. After asking a few questions, he said, “Okay, honey. See you tonight,” and hung up the phone. Marsha later told him she thought she’d called the wrong husband.

“She thought I wasn’t going to be any help and that I would not be able to be there the way she needed me,” says Marc, remembering his early missteps as a caregiver. “That first weekend, I didn’t know what to do because she looked so stunned and sad. I had no frame of reference for how to be a caregiver and support someone with a cancer diagnosis. I thought I should cheer her up, so I took her to a big festival. She walked around like a zombie. She looked so bereft and lost. Whatever I was doing was not the right thing.”

The Tuesday after receiving that shocking news, Marc and Marsha met with a surgeon to discuss her options. During that appointment, Marc realized he couldn’t run away from the situation. He had to face it head on.

Marc is one of countless people in this country supporting a friend or family member with breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, it’s estimated that 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, and it is the second leading cause of cancer death in women.

How Does The Body Respond During Stress

The body responds to physical, mental, or emotional pressure by releasing stress hormones that increase blood pressure, speed heart rate, and raise blood sugar levels. These changes help a person act with greater strength and speed to escape a perceived threat.

Research has shown that people who experience intense and long-term stress can have digestive problems, fertility problems, urinary problems, and a weakened immune system. People who experience chronic stress are also more prone to viral infections such as the flu or common cold and to have headaches, sleep trouble, depression, and anxiety.

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Things To Say To Someone With Cancer

When a friend or loved one receives a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to be there and show you care. But finding the right words can be hard.What can you say that won’t scare or upset your friend or loved one? What can you say that will give them the hope and strength they need to confront cancer?We recently asked the cancer patients, survivors and caregivers in our to share the best things to say to someone with cancer.Here’s what they recommend.

Do Not Send Them Online Articles

What to Do and Not to Do to Help Someone Diagnosed With Cancer?

The first thing I was told when I was diagnosed was, Get off Google, and it was the best advice I was given. The internet is a mess of stories about breast cancer patients who were cured by prayer, by eating kale, by meditating. Most of these are bullshit. Do not send these stories to your friend or relative. Theyre probably already working with a specialist let the pros handle this one.

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Help Her Cope With Fatigue

Fatigue is the number one distressing symptom for most cancer survivors. The problem can last weeks, months, or even years following treatment. It’s important for caregivers to know that this fatigue is different from ordinary exhaustion. A nap won’t necessarily help.

“People who have cancer fatigue will sleep eight hours and may still feel like a truck ran over them,” Dr. Asher explains. “A woman may feel wiped out after walking up a flight of stairs. Her partner needs to recognize that this isn’t ordinary tiredness. About a third of women continue to have fatigue long after treatment has ended.”

The estrogen-blocking drugs prescribed for some breast cancers can also contribute to exhaustion, as well as joint pain, hot flashes, and other side effects. Not every woman experiences these problems. But while chemotherapy might be 4 cycles and radiation 6 weeks, hormonal side effects can last 5 or even 10 years. Physicians in the Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship program often say, “You may be disease-free but not free of your disease.”

“You may be disease-free but not free of your disease.”

Distract Me With Little Surprises

“At some point I must’ve told one of my co-workers about how when I was a child and I’d get sick my mother would always buy me a little gift,” recalls Aimee Johnson, 46, executive director of the Alabama arm of the American Diabetes Association. So, the first time she went to chemotherapy, Johnson’s staff had a little present for her. “And then every time I went to chemo, there was a giftNetflix to watch or a book to read while I was there,” she says. “Or flowers to take home.” A friend of Victoria Irwin’s bought her tickets to a concert series. “That was her gift to methe gift of distraction from treatment. Otherwise my days would have revolved around radiation in the morning,” Irwin says. “The little distractions help you feel normal.”

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Five Things Friday: Ways To Support Someone With Breast Cancer

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Today, most people with breast cancer are treated in an outpatient setting. They dont have to stay in the hospital. During this time, they often need help, support, and encouragement. Studies have found that cancer victims with strong emotional support tend to have a more positive attitude and are better equipped to deal with the changes cancer brings to their lives. Here are five tips you can use to support your friend or loved one through their journey:

What You Can Do: Conversation

How to Support Someone Going Through Breast Cancer

Many people worry that they dont know what to say to someone with cancer. Try to remember that the most important thing is not what you say its that youre there and willing to listen. Try to hear and understand how your friend feels. Let them know that youre open to talking whenever they feel like it. Or, if the person doesnt feel like talking, let them know thats OK, too.

Ask your friend questions. Ask for their advice and opinions.

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What You Can Do: Gifts

Look for small, practical things your friend may need or just enjoy. Think about what their average day is like and what might make it a little better. Its always good to laugh and smile, too, so look for fun things for your friend.

  • Make sure gifts are useful right away. Small gifts given frequently are usually better than large, one-time gifts.
  • Give a gift to the caregiver its as welcome as a gift to your friend.
  • Insist that a thank-you note is not needed.

Supporting Loved Ones With Metastatic Breast Cancer

If someone you love has been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, its totally understandable if youre feeling uncertain or even helpless about how to provide support. But there are lots of ways you can be there for your loved one. Metastatic breast cancer treatment is ongoing, and your loved ones needs may change over time.

Each person living with this diagnosis has their own unique needs. On this page, you can find a starting point for ways to offer support, including how to talk to your loved one about what they want and need. Well also share things to avoid, and what you can do instead.

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