Communication and cancer

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It's important that you communicate with your health-care team and your family about how you're feeling and what you're thinking during cancer treatment. Learn more about why communication is important and how to becoem a better communicator.

Key points

  • Communicating about the changes and challenges you are experiencing during cancer treatment can help you manage your feelings, relieve stress and strengthen or build relationships.
  • There is no best way to communicate about cancer; you need to communicate in the way that works for you.
  • Communication includes verbal and non-verbal, such as writing, art or body language.
  • Good communication skills can be learned and improved on continuously with practice.

For more videos regarding teens and cancer, please visit the Teens Taking Charge Cancer playlist.

One teenager described their cancer diagnosis in the following way:

"You know, he [the physician] was slow. [He said], 'Well, what we found was a type of cancer, a tumor.' …When he said that, I felt like they had shot me or something. My heart broke to pieces. I felt destroyed inside." (SD, 15 years old)

Why is communication so important

Having cancer can really shake up the way you look at or think about your life. It can challenge your beliefs, your relationships and change what you feel is important. Communicating about the challenges and changes that come with cancer can help you sort out your feelings, relieve stress and strengthen or build relationships.

Communication helps you to be informed about your cancer and treatment so that you can be a part of making decisions that affect you. How you talk with people about cancer will depend on your own personality and how you usually relate to others. Remember, there is no "best" way to communicate about cancer; however, there will be a way that works best for you.

What is communication?

Communication means exchanging information. You can communicate in many ways. In fact, almost everything you do involves communication with people in some way.

  • You can communicate with another person by talking, writing, chatting online, sharing pictures or even through body language.
  • You can communicate with groups by writing a public blog, creating a video, writing in public online forums, sending group emails or posting on social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter.
  • You can keep a journal, write a private blog or film a vlog.
  • It is important to remember that the things that you say and do also provide people around you with a variety of messages about how you are feeling in the moment.
  • Being aware of how you like to communicate and the messages you send to others can help you understand yourself and help you to communicate in a way that suits you.

Look at the following list and select the forms of communication that are most important to you.

  • Talking in person
  • Talking on the phone
  • Texting
  • Writing emails
  • Writing a blog
  • Posting on social media apps such as Instagram,Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter
  • Sending a picture on Snapchat
  • Making or writing music
  • Creating art
  • Writing poetry or stories
  • Making or sharing videos
  • Commenting on articles, videos or other online posts
  • Posting in a discussion forum
  • Writing in a journal
  • Writing letters

Can you think of any other ways you communicate that are important to you?

Can I get better at communicating?

Like many other teens, you may find it hard at times to talk to others about having cancer, your symptoms, your thoughts and your feelings. It’s common to feel awkward, emotional, nervous or embarrassed. Some teens want to protect their parents, family or friends from knowing how they really feel about what is going on. It is important to remember that there are many people, including your health-care team, who want to help and support you during difficult times. This section is a guide to communicating with the people in your life. It can help you throughout your experience with cancer and into the future. Good communication is a skill that can be learned. You will get better with practice and feedback.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019