Tips for talking to someone recently diagnosed with breast cancer

Staff Report

LISLE, Ill. — More than 230,000 Americans will find out they have breast cancer this year. A woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is nearly 1 in 8, or about 12 percent. Breast cancer is much rarer in men, but more than 2,000 new men are diagnosed each year.

After a diagnosis, family and friends are often left wondering what they can say or do to help. No matter what stage the person’s cancer is in, a few empathetic and open questions can help start the conversation. Following are some tips from Passages Hospice:

• Do admit that you might not know what to say, but that you are willing to listen.

• Do ask about other things in the person’s life like children, work or hobbies. Remember that the person is more than the cancer.

• Do stay in touch with cards, e-mails or notes. The person might be too busy to respond, but he or she will appreciate it.

• Don’t tell the person you understand how they feel (unless you have cancer, too.) Even the most sympathetic person can’t fully understand how a cancer diagnosis feels.

• Don’t stay away simply because you don’t know what to do.

Roxxi Davis, director of Social Services for Passages Hospice, added: “They might not need help or want to talk right away. Just letting them know you’re available and willing can help.”

For more about palliative care or hospice services through Passages Hospice, visit or call 888-741-8985.

From the Oct. 10-16, 2012, issue

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