Posted in: Breast Cancer Treatment by Dr. Tarang Krishna
Breast cancer is one of the most disturbing experience someone can go through, and yet many patients find many friends and loved ones disappearing from their lives, just when they are most needed.
But for many others, this can be an opportunity to care and connect. However, you should be really careful about what you say to someone going through breast cancer treatment. You must think before you speak and keep the questions or comments focused on helping them and not about you or your life experiences.
Should not say: "How are you doing?"
While this can be a sincere question, it's often replied to with the fake, "I'm fine," while on the inside the patient might be thinking the opposite. Better to say: "Want to grab a coffee and chat?"
Should not say: "You don't look sick."
Patients going through breast cancer treatment knows that she looks sick most of the time. This question can also be misinterpreted in many ways. Instead, it is better to compliment the patient, like for example, you have lovely eyes.
Should not say: "My (someone) had stage 3 cancer and recovered."
Every cancer is different and having your cancer compared to someone else's is disturbing. Also, there are four main types of breast cancer with many rarer varieties, each with their prognosis and treatments. It is better to say: "If you want to talk about it, I would love to hear about your diagnosis.”
Should not say: "I just know that you are going to be fine."
This could backfire because even the doctors don't know for sure if the patient is going to be fine. How can someone claim something like that? It may seem fake to the patient. You can try saying something like: “You are strong and tough.”
Should not say: "Did you get a second opinion?"
Nobody is mad enough to get their breast cut off without ever double checking to see if there are other options. Unless you are a doctor, any medical opinions or advice should be left alone. It is better to say: "I'm so glad that you have a great team of doctors to help you through this."
Should not say: "Let me know if you need any help."
It's really difficult for anyone, let alone cancer patients, to admit that they need help. It would be better if you think of a specific way to help them and suggest a suitable time for doing so.
Should not say: Anything that starts with, "At least...."
"At least it's not deadly." Or, "at least it's not as bad as it could have been." Saying what something isn’t doesn't change the reality. Instead try: "With the right breast cancer cure, you would recover soon."
Every person who had breast cancer is different, so it's most important to pay attention to what your friend/relative is saying and follow her lead. When in doubt, ask them a question, and then you can get a feel for how much they want to talk.