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Talking to family and friends

Talking to family and friends

Updated: 11 Jul 2023
A family of multiple generations including young children are standing in a paddock on a farm looking at the camera

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Telling your loved ones you have breast cancer can be difficult, and you may worry about how their diagnosis may impact them. However, the love and support of family and friends usually form an important part of the emotional healing process. It often helps to share the burden by talking to others and you may want to share your feelings with trusted people close to you. 

They may also be able to provide crucial support as you go through the process about making decisions about your treatment. 

The information on this page is designed to help you tell your family, friends and colleagues about your diagnosis. There is also resources on this page that you can share with them to help understand your treatment and related side effects. 

Partners

As with any life-changing experience, both partners in a relationship can feel great distress after a breast cancer diagnosis. You may like to show your partner the Information for partners page, which contains some common challenges and tips to improve their own wellbeing during this time. 

Some partners have trouble expressing themselves and don’t want to discuss their feelings or seek support. They may normally respond to problems by trying to fix them. As your breast cancer is something they can’t fix, your partner might be additionally distressed by their own sense of powerlessness.

You may like to suggest to your partner that they read BCNA's booklet I wish I could fix it’: Supporting your partner through breast cancer.

This booklet has been written for partners of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. It includes information on breast cancer treatment and care, as well as practical tips to help partners deal with some of the common challenges they may face.

Same-sex couples

Telling your partner in a same-sex relationship that you have breast cancer can bring up some unique challenges. 

Partners of women in same-sex relationships might feel especially vulnerable and personally threatened as it may bring up fears that the disease could affect them as well. It could put added stress on the relationship. 

Generally, most cancer treatments and support services are aimed at heterosexual couples, which can make things more difficult for same-sex couples. You may worry how the medical system treats same sex-couples. Some partners feel that the process of regularly ‘coming out’ to health professionals is almost as stressful as dealing with the breast cancer itself.

If these issues are of concern for you, more information can be found on the same-sex partners page

Children

Telling your children about breast cancer can be hard. The way your children cope will depend on their age and maturity, and their understanding of the issue. It is important to talk openly in an age-appropriate manner with your children. This will help them feel supported and confident that their needs and concerns will be addressed.

BCNA's My Journey contains advice on telling your children according to their age range. More information can also be found on the Telling your children page.

Friends and colleagues

Friends and colleagues can be unsure how to support you through your breast cancer.

The section on helping a family member, friend or colleague with breast cancer has some suggestions from women who have had breast cancer or you can download BCNA’s Helping a friend or colleague with breast cancer brochure. It may be helpful to give a copy to your friend or workplace at the same time you disclose your diagnosis with them.  

Things you can do now

  • More information for family, friends and colleagues can be found on our page Caring for someone with early breast cancer.
  • If you have a disability and have been diagnosed with breast cancer, our page Facing a disability with breast cancer has specific information for you and your loved one. 
  • Visit the ACON website for information, research and referrals to LGBTIQ+ health professionals.
  • My Journey BCNA’s online tool for information tailored to your diagnosis. 
  • Join our Online Network if you think that talking to others online and sharing experiences will help. 
  • Contact BCNA’s Helpline on 1800 500 258 between 9.00 am to 5.00 pm AEST Monday to Friday, for information about the services and supports that may be available for you and your family.
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