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How to Tell Family & Friends about Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Learn how to break the news of your breast cancer diagnosis to family and friends in this Howcast video with expert Marisa Weiss, MD.


Hi, I'm Doctor Marisa Weiss, president and founder of I'm also a practicing oncologist, and mom, and also a breast cancer survivor. So I'm happy to share information with you today that could help protect your life against breast cancer. One of the challenges of a breast cancer diagnosis is sharing the news. You know, it can feel overwhelming and you know, you can feel full of anxiety, even panic for sure. And you don't want to keep it a secret, you want to share the information with the people in your immediate support network. But sharing the information is not easy. It's hard to talk about things that are scary and threatening. And it makes it more real to you, it make you really believe and understand that, whoa, this is happening in my life, it's a reality check when you share that information. How you find the right words and how you share the information depends on who you're talking to, is it someone who is your significant other? That's one conversation. Is it a toddler or a young child or a teenager, a whole other set of conversations. Is it your mother or your grandmother? Another set of conversations. And what you're trying to do is to share the most important piece of information that is useful at that time and age appropriate. Choosing the right words and finding the right time to have these really important conversations with these different people in your life is a challenge. There's no right way to do it and you're going to learn as you go. For children it's important to share a little bit of information and then stop and listen to their response. Your children will take their cue from you, so if you're looking normal, acting normal, they're going to feel reassured by the way you're carrying on. But if you're whispering and crying and keeping things secret they're going to get very scared and they'll often blame themselves for what's going on in your life, even if they have no clue what's happening. For the child who's ,you know 10 into their early teens, you're going to share some more information. Share a little bit, let them ask questions , give them answers to the questions. And if they ask a question that you don't have the answer to you say, wow, that's a really thoughtful question, I don't have the answer to it but the next time I go to my doctor I'm going to make sure that I get the answer and I will share it with you. Keeping the dialogue going makes a huge difference. You are teaching by example, you are teaching your children and the people around you about how to lead your life, how to handle the challenges and the hurdles and the tough stuff and you're modeling that for them when they deal with challenges in their life, whatever kind of challenges it may be, or they may be. Keep the conversation going, if you're upset, let, you can be upset. Try to avoid the whispering and the secrets, it's just burdensome to you and it's teaching the wrong example. But it is true that it's best to start the conversation when you do have some information. If you've just been diagnosed, but you have no idea what kind it is, what the story's going to be, what treatment? That's a tough time to share it, but if you say I've been diagnosed with a problem, they're checking it out. I'll learn a lot more soon and as soon as I know how I'm going to get rid of this problem, I'm going, you're going to be the first person I tell. So I just want to keep you in my loop moving forward.

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