Five ways to support someone living with cancer

Supporting someone with cancerEvery year in the UK, there are more than 363,000 new cancer cases reported*. We know that of those experiencing treatment, 78% still report having unmet emotional needs. As friends and family, it can sometimes be hard to know how to best care for loved ones as they undergo treatment.

This World Cancer Day, here are five ways to emotionally and practically support friends or family going through cancer treatment.

1. Be a listening ear

Finding the words to say to someone undergoing cancer treatment can be difficult. Sometimes a listening ear is one of the greatest comforts you can offer. Remind your loved ones that you are there to listen, or simply to sit with them when they want company.

2. Be inclusive and open

Often during treatment, those experiencing cancer crave normality. Keep including those going through treatment in things that remind them of ‘normal’ life. Keep inviting them along to outings or occasions – from a short visit to a local café, or a bigger group dinner. Even if the invitation is declined, continuing to invite them will be a reminder that they are not forgotten and that people care.

3. Ask them what they want and need

Sometimes it is the small things that make a difference. Ask what small comforts you can offer to help ease the discomfort of treatment. If you are stuck for ideas, at Cancer Support UK we have created Cancer Kits. These free kits are filled with small practical items designed to provide immediate relief for both adults and children going through treatment. Find out more about sending a kit.

4. Offer to help with small tasks

When things feel overwhelming, small daily tasks are easily forgotten. Offer to support your friend or family member with regular errands or jobs. Whether it’s sending some post on their behalf, walking their dog, or doing the weekly shop, practical tasks are a great way to show that you are there and you care.

5. Stay in touch – even after treatment
It’s a common misconception that the struggle of living with cancer ends post-treatment. Stay connected to your friends and family who have lived with cancer, and keep offering them support and love as they ease back in to normal life. If someone you know is struggling to adapt to life after cancer treatment, our Cancer Coach course can help. Cancer Coach is a telephone support group that is designed and delivered by people who themselves have undergone cancer treatment. Our Cancer Coach groups run throughout the year. To find out more, visit the Cancer Coach page.

*Cancer Research UK,, accessed January 2020