Telling people

It’s up to you to decide who you do or don’t tell that you’ve got cancer, and how much you tell them about what’s going on.

Deciding who to tell and what to say is difficult. You might be avoiding telling friends or other people because you’re worried about how they will react.

It’s normal to be worried about how they will react and whether they will treat you differently. But usually once people understand what you’re going through they can be a great source of support.

Tips for telling people you have cancer


  • Think about what you want to say.
    You could write it down, or even practice it with someone in your family. Maybe you could find someone who’s been in a similar situation and ask them how they handled it.
  • Be prepared for weird reactions.
    Sometimes friends act weird when you tell them what’s going on. They might ask some uncomfortable questions as well. Remember that they might not fully understand and are probably shocked by the news. They may have no idea what to say or do, or be worried about saying the wrong thing or upsetting you.
  • If it’s too hard to talk, try other ways to share the news.
    Try putting it in an email or DM or maybe on Facebook (if you want your whole social network to know!). Or send them a link to this website where they can read about the kinds of things you’re going through and ways they can support you.
  • Decide who to tell.
    Talking about cancer with your closest friends and family can be challenging, but what do you do about telling people in your wider social circle, like work colleagues or sport teammates?If you work, you may have to tell your immediate supervisor or your human resources manager or both if your treatment involves you taking time off. They may also be able to help in other ways, such as reducing work hours or helping with physical access.

    If you are a student, there is no legal obligation in Australia for you to tell your school, Uni or TAFE about it. But if you think your cancer will affect your marks and ability to meet course requirements, it is a good idea to tell your teachers. There is normally a student liaison office or services centre that can help you with your workload or deferring exams if necessary. Don’t forget that you get a say in who knows at school. If you would rather not tell people, ask your year coordinator or teachers to maintain your privacy.Ask your YCS Cancer Care Coordinator for advice about who to contact.