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Talking to family and friends

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 Kit contains advice on telling your children according to their age range. Optional resources for children are available when you order your My Journey Kit. 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.  

More information

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