Dialog Box

Rare Cancers Australia

Talking with friends & colleagues


Friends can be a valuable tool to use while living with cancer. They can provide practical support such as transporting you to and from appointments, providing assistance around the house or being around to listen to you when you need someone to talk to.

Sometimes friends may distance themselves from you or may want to avoid talking about topics surrounding cancer and treatment. Let them know it's okay to talk about something else other than cancer.

How to talk to friends: 
  • Be clear with your boundaries -share what you only want to share and don’t feel pressured to divulge too much information. 
  • Ask your friends how they feel about your diagnosis – this allows them to express and process how they are feeling. 
  • Be as specific as possible when friends ask how they can help. 
  • Change the topic if they bring up something you’re not comfortable with, e.g. alternative therapies, ‘miracle cures’, etc.


It is entirely up to you whether you want to share your diagnosis with your colleagues. If you do decide to let your colleagues know, it is important to notify your employer as soon as possible so they can assist you in putting a plan together to communicate this news. If you do not want to share your diagnosis with your colleagues, your employer must respect your decision.  

Some questions to consider:
  • Who do you want to share the news of your diagnosis with and who should tell them? 
  • How do you want that news to be communicated, for example one-to-one, in a meeting or by group email? 
  • How much information do you want shared and what information should stay confidential? 
  • Are there any preferences you have for how people can provide support? 
  • How do you want to be communicated with throughout treatment and recovery?  
Ask your employer to try the following: 
  • Avoid personal details or dramatising 
  • Use positive language while being honest about what to expect 
  • Discuss with your team the best ways to approach their colleagues about their diagnosis 
  • Suggest staff speak to their appropriate managers if they having practical issues with this news or if they are feeling distressed. 

If you feel that your illness is having an impact on how you are treated in the workplace, speak with your relevant People and Culture/Human Resources department. If you are not happy with the resolution, contact the following organisations: 

Source: Cancer Vic - Talking with Family and Friends