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Talking to family and friends

Breast cancer affects the whole family. When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is normal for those around her to be affected in some way, too.

You might find that your partner and family members begin to experience similar emotions to those you are experiencing yourself. Shock, sadness, anxiety and even anger are all normal emotions for family members to feel.

It can be hard for your loved ones to know how to talk to you about your diagnosis. They may want to help you but not know how. The information on this page is designed to help family, friends and colleagues understand how they can support you. You might like to share it with them when the time is right.


Some people 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.

If you are in a same sex relationship you may have the additional worry of 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 you are in a same-sex relationship, it can help to seek out health professionals who are sensitive to and respectful of your situation. It’s important that your partner is involved in your treatment and care. If you feel that your medical team is not supportive, then it is probably a good idea to look around for other professionals. Some couples also find it helpful to talk to a counsellor or join a same-sex support group.

More information for partners is located here, or you can download BCNA’s booklet, ‘I wish I could fix it’: Supporting your partner through breast cancer.


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. essential 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.

For more information, read the Telling your children page.

Friends and colleagues

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

Our 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.

More information

For more information on helping family, friends and colleagues to understand your breast cancer journey you may like to: