top of page

How to Support a Cancer Patient Emotionally

help a cancer patient

Cancer, whether it's your own battle or that of someone close to you, can stir up a mixture and range of emotions, leaving you grappling with countless questions. How can you support and be there in the best possible way for those fighting this disease? How do you strike a balance between offering support and honoring independence and dignity? By the end of this blog you will get a sense of how to provide effective emotional support to cancer patients.

What support do cancer patients need?

When you're connected to someone facing cancer, the emotions can be incredibly intense. It makes you wonder, how do you handle this? How can you make things better for everyone affected? Here are a few tips for you to keep in mind.

How to support a cancer patient emotionally

1. Providing Care vs. Fostering Dependency

Consider how actions that are meant to be nurturing and caring might influence a person's sense of autonomy and self-esteem. Caregiving can often entail offering practical aid, emotional solace, and help with daily tasks like accompanying a person to medical appointments, preparing meals, or simply being a supportive presence.

These acts of care play an important role in helping the patient navigate the physical and emotional hurdles of their cancer. However, there's a fine line between offering care and unintentionally fostering dependency. Be cautious not to inadvertently disempower the patient by assuming tasks they can manage themselves or making decisions without consulting them.

Constantly anticipating a cancer patients needs and taking control without allowing them to voice their preferences can undermine their sense of independence. Likewise, adopting a patronizing tone or exerting excessive control over their daily routines can breed frustration and resentment.

Actively involve them in decision-making and respect their boundaries..

2. Don't Reinvent the Relationship

Continue being there for the patient in the same way you always have. Cancer can make a person feel vulnerable. Sincere and authentic support just like they've relied on in the past can be reassuring.

Don't try to make the relationship something it isn't or be someone you're not. This will inadvertently create a gap between you and the patient, making it harder to communicate effectively and offer the support they need. Instead, provide assistance in a way that matches who you are. We all have our unique ways of caring, and being authentic allows you to offer support in a manner that feels natural to both you and the patient, making your help all the more meaningful.

3. Be a Supportive Advocate

Help by attending doctor's appointments and either taking notes or recording these meetings. Engage in thorough research on treatment options. Seek out local support groups. In other words, offer assistance in areas where the patient may lack the energy to explore.

4. Talking with Cancer Patients

Cancer differs for everyone, influenced by factors like where the disease is, the treatments planned, and family history. So, it's natural for people to feel a range and mixture of emotions. When supporting a friend or family member, it's important to let them express their feelings without thinking you know how they feel or trying to change the topic just because it feels uneasy.

When talking to a friend or family member who's dealing with a cancer diagnosis, be real and genuine. Don't assume you know how they feel, and don't say things just because you think you should. It's okay to acknowledge that these conversations can be awkward; most people understand and respond with kindness and empathy.

People facing cancer might find these talks hard too due to stigma, sometimes feeling embarrassed or blaming themselves. Being empathetic matters most—listening matters more than talking. Asking, "How can I support you? What do you need?" shows care and understanding.

When you're at a loss for words phrases like, "I don't know what to say, but I really care," or, "I'm so sorry you're facing this. How are you feeling?" can go a long way. Listen, engaging without being too caught up in your own thoughts, the "perfect" thing to say, or what you will say next.


Going through the ups and downs of cancer, whether it's happening to us or someone close, is incredibly tough. It's difficult not knowing what's around the corner. By being yourself and truly listening, you can make a big difference in easing the emotional load for those tackling this disease.

If you are interested in learning about therapy or would like to setup an appointment with Person to Person Psychotherapy, serving New Jersey & New York residents, call 908-224-0007 or email Amanda Frudakis-Ruckel, LCSW at


  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
bottom of page