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Learning your loved one has breast cancer can be devastating. You want to help the best you can but taking the first step can be overwhelming and intimidating. Here are some tips you can take to support your loved one.


You will be most helpful to your loved one when you are mentally prepared. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Your loved one’s diagnosis can be tough on you. Please allow yourself to digest and cope with your feelings before focusing on your loved one.​​​​​​​1
  • Learn the basics of the diagnosis from doctors, mutual friends and family. It can be emotionally challenging for your loved one to repeat their diagnosis over and over to different people.​​​​​​​1
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Think about how you would like to be treated and spoken to. This can help you avoid unintentionally saying or doing something offensive, such as commenting on appearance or making light of the situation.1,2


To your loved one, the illness and side effects can turn daily lives into hurdles.

Before you help with anything, be sure to ask for permission. Also, try to be flexible with plans and availability to suit the needs of your loved one.​​​​​​​1

Here are some things you can help with:​​​​​​​1,3

  • Shopping for groceries and picking up prescriptions​​​​​​​
  • Various house chores, such as cleaning and cooking​​​​​​​
  • Babysitting and taking children from and to school​​​​​​​
  • Accompanying them to hospital appointments​​​​​​​
  • Making difficult phone calls for them, such as asking for information from insurance companies​​​​​​​

While it is normal to want to do as much for your loved one as possible, you need to know your limit and be tactful to avoid burnout for you and embarrassment for your loved one.​​​​​​​3 Consider these tips when offering help:​​​​​​​

  • Write down a list of WHAT you can help with and WHEN you can help. You can’t help with everything because you also have your own life. Besides, your loved one will know that they can rely on you on certain times and things, without feeling like they have to depend on you for everything. Discuss the list with your loved one, so both of your expectations are aligned.​​​​​​​1,3
  • Ask “can I help with X at Y time?” instead of “how can I help?”. Your loved one might feel overwhelmed coming up with things they need help with. More specific questions make it easier for them to say yes or no to help.​​​​​​​1,3​​​​​​​


It is distressing for most people to know that they have breast cancer. Your loved one might often experience intense emotions, such as sadness, fear, and anger. This might be difficult for you to approach.​​​​​​​3

Simply lending an ear is more than helpful. Words such as “you’ll be fine” and “don’t worry” might seem cheerful but are hurtful, as they make light of the situation. Instead, allow your loved one to express their worries, let them know it is ok to feel negative.​​​​​​​2,3 If a conversation turns uncomfortable or tearful, don’t avoid it – it might help your loved one decompress and feel better.​​​​​​​1-3

Here are some more emotional support ideas:​​​​​​​1,2

  • Have regular gatherings, such as lunches, movie nights and walks.
  • Make plans for the future, such as going to a concert or a weekend getaway, can help give your loved one a brighter outlook.
  • Have a chat about the day or other interesting topics. Talking about non-cancer-related topics can help relax your loved one.
  • Send thoughtful gifts such as cards, healthy snacks and flowers.


  1. Cancer.Net (April 2018). Supporting a Friend Who Has Cancer. Retrieved from Accessed 23 March, 2022.
  2. Northwestern Medicine (2022). The Best (and Worst) Ways to Support a Friend with Cancer. Retrieved from​​​​​​​ Accessed 23 March, 2022.
  3. Breast Cancer Now (2021). How to support someone with breast cancer. Retrieved from Accessed 23 March, 2022.


This health information is provided for reference only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider.

All decisions regarding patient care must be made with healthcare provider.