Cancer Awareness: How to Support a Loved One with Breast Cancer

Every October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month highlights the 12% of US women diagnosed with breast cancer by increasing awareness of its symptoms and promoting ways you can help. If a friend, family member, or someone you know is diagnosed, you might be wondering how you can assist them through their journey. We know it’s easy to feel helpless, so to make the process a little easier, we want to help by providing a few practical tips on how to aid a loved one battling cancer.

5 Tips for Supporting Someone with Breast Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, there are currently more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the US. Studies show that cancer survivors benefit from having a strong support system during their recovery that keeps them motivated and strong. Cancer survivors with active emotional bonds also saw improved adaptability to the disease’s changes and a better quality of life overall.


1. Visit frequently

A cancer diagnosis can be a very isolating experience. One of the best ways to show you care for a friend or family member with any malignancy is by spending more time with them. Researchers found that women with more social ties were less likely to suffer cancer recurrences or pass away compared to socially isolated women. However, it’s important to consider the following points before visiting someone battling cancer:

  • Always check before showing up 
  • Short and regular visits are better than long and infrequent ones
  • Wash your hands before visiting
  • Try to visit on days when they’re less likely to have other visitors. Try weekdays or non-holidays
  • Be understanding if plans get canceled or if they ask you to leave early because they are feeling unwell
  • If they are comfortable with it, begin and end each visit with a touch, hug, or handshake

2. Stay connected 

If you’re unable to visit frequently, prioritize other modes of contact like calling, texting, emailing or sending a card. When someone you know has cancer, regular check-ins improve their mental health and increase their well-being. Try your best to respond quickly whenever they reach out. And listen intently with any requests or questions they might have. When you’re done with a call or text, let them know that you look forward to your next conversation. 

3. Have conversations and listen 

Another important way to support a loved one diagnosed with breast cancer is to communicate and listen carefully. Establish yourself as a trusted resource they know they can talk to, whether they are experiencing positive or negative emotions. And ease the burden of navigating their journey alone by letting them know they can confide in you. Also, avoid feeling pressured to come up with the perfect way of discussing their illness. Keep the conversation normal, be respectful, and simply listen. It’s OK to discuss their illness or respond with things like:

  • I’m not sure what to say
  • I want you to know I care about you
  • I’m here for you anytime you need to talk
  • Is there anything I can help you with? 
  • What are you thinking about and would you like to talk about it?

4. Help out with chores 

Lending a hand with everyday tasks is another great way to help a loved one with breast cancer, but avoid assuming they can’t perform specific tasks. Start by inquiring if they need assistance with anything or ask specific questions to learn where they need help. Cooking meals, grocery shopping, doing laundry, or offering assistance are a few ways can help a loved one feel less overwhelmed, and will allow them to focus on recovery. 

5. Bring thoughtful gifts or food 

When someone you know has cancer, giving them a gift can uplift their spirits and show them you care. This is particularly true if you bring a present that bonds you together. Whether it’s a funny movie, book, or a favorite snack, giving a loved one battling cancer something that makes them smile is always a good way to approach gift-giving productively. Remember to ask about dietary restrictions as well. 

Northwest Primary Care: Portland physicians that care

Northwest Primary Care has supported the greater Southeast Portland area since 1960 and is ranked as the best in the state for adult total cost of care and clinical quality in Oregon. If a family member or someone you know is living with cancer, let us know how we can help by providing additional guidance.

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