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Advice on how to approach a cancer patient

Learn some guidelines of how to respond to loved ones who are diagnosed with cancer in a loving, supportive way.

Chances are likely that someone you know will be diagnosed with cancer. Acknowledging the situation can be extremely difficult and uncomfortable, but a New Jersey medical expert offers advice on how you can address the patient, whether it’s a loved one, friend or coworker.

“I don’t think anybody expects you to say the absolute perfect thing or know exactly what to say,” said Dr. Deborah M. Capko, a surgical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering in Bernards.

Most patients realize that it’s an awkward situation when they tell somebody that they’ve been diagnosed with cancer, and according to Capko, how someone respond afterwards is more important than the initial reaction. Being supportive is key.

“Once you’re told somebody has cancer, follow up with them,” Capko said. Even if you say something that’s not the most appropriate thing, Capko suggests sending a text message later to explain that you were taken back by the person’s diagnosis and ask them what you can do to help. “That’s probably the most important thing you can do,” she added.

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