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Living with Breast Cancer

Practical Issues


Telling Your Child You Have Breast Cancer

Telling your children that you have breast cancer can be a challenge. You don’t want to frighten and overwhelm them, but at the same time, you don’t want to leave them guessing at what you’ve been upset about. Since children have an innate ability to sense when something is wrong, and may invent a problem that is much worse than reality if information is lacking, it’s important to be honest and to keep the lines of communication open.

Here is a sample script for an older child that you can adapt to your own particular situation.  For information on what to say to children of various ages, see the resources listed at the end of this section.

  • “I have an illness called breast cancer. It means some lumps are growing inside my breast that shouldn’t be there. I am going to have an operation in the hospital to have the lumps taken out. Then I’ll have some more treatment to make sure they don’t grow back.”
  • “You don’t have to worry because the doctors will take good care of me. I will have treatment soon, and I’ll tell you all about it when I start.”
  • “Just because I have cancer doesn’t mean that you’ll get cancer too. It’s not contagious (you can’t catch it).”
  • “It’s not your fault that I have cancer.  It’s not caused by anything that you have said or done or thought.”
  • “Lots of people get cancer. We don’t know why it happens. Most people get better and we expect I will get better, too.”
  • “Even though some things might change at home, you’ll still be able to go to your usual activities while Mom is having treatment.”
  • “Whatever happens, you will always be cared for and loved. “
  • “If you think of any questions or have any worries, please don’t keep them to yourself. Come and talk to me. It’s okay if you talk to someone else, too.”

If you have adult children, telling them about your cancer diagnosis is just as difficult. They may have a lot of questions and feelings. Talking to them about your treatment plan may help them cope with the news. You may consider letting them speak with your doctor if they have questions. At times, you may need their support with everyday tasks or you may need to rely on them when it comes to making treatment decisions.

Speaking with a social worker at your cancer centre may help you find the right words or you can check out the following resources:

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