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How can I help people with cancer?

117 Answers
Last Updated: 07/17/2018 at 2:15pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Amy Green, MA; LMFT

Marriage & Family Therapist

I am a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist in the state of California and Oregon. I've been in private practice for 10 years and have been in the counseling field for 15 years.

Top Rated Answers
November 25th, 2015 3:11am
be supportive, listen to their issues, and be careful not to cause any anxiety, as relaxation can help you heal faster.
November 25th, 2015 4:42pm
What you can do: Notes and calls Make sure your friend knows that they are important to you. Show that you still care for your friend despite changes in what they can do or how they look. Send brief, frequent notes or make short, regular calls rather than long, infrequent letters or calls. Include photos, kids’ drawings, and cartoons. Ask questions. End the call or note with “I’ll be in touch soon,” and follow through. Call at times that work best for your friend or set times for them to call you. Return their messages right away. Check in with the person who helps with their daily care (caregiver) to see what else they might need. What you can do: Visits Cancer can be very isolating. Try to spend time with your friend – you may be a welcome distraction and help them feel like they did before cancer became a major focus of their life. Always call before you visit. Be understanding if your friend can’t see you at that time. Schedule a visit that allows you to give physical and emotional support for the caregiver. Maybe you can arrange to stay with your friend while the caregiver gets out of the house for a couple of hours. Make short, regular visits rather than long, infrequent ones. Understand that your friend might not want to talk, but they may not like being alone either. Begin and end the visit with a touch, a hug, or a handshake. Be understanding if the family asks you to leave. Always refer to your next visit so your friend can look forward to it. Offer to bring a snack or treat to share so your visit doesn’t impose on the caregiver. Try to visit at times other than weekends or holidays, when others may visit. Time can seem the same to a house-bound patient. A Tuesday morning can be just as lonely as a Saturday night. Take your own needlework, crossword puzzle, or book, and keep your friend company while they doze or chat with other friends. Share music they enjoy, watch their favorite TV show, or watch a movie with your friend. Read sections of a book or newspaper, or find topics of interest online and summarize them for your friend. Don’t be afraid to touch, hug, or shake hands with your friend. What you can do: Conversation Many people worry that they don’t know what to say to someone with cancer. Try to remember that the most important thing is not what you say – it’s that you’re there and willing to listen. Try to hear and understand how your friend feels. Let them know that you’re open to talking whenever they feel like it. Or, if the person doesn’t feel like talking right now, let them know that’s OK, too. Gear the conversation to your friend’s attention span so they don’t feel overwhelmed or guilty about not being able to talk. Help your friend focus on whatever brings out good feelings, such as sports, religion, travel, or pets. Help your friend keep an active role in the friendship by asking advice, opinions, and questions – even if you don’t get the response you expect. Ask your friend if they’re having any discomfort. Suggest new ways to be more comfortable, such as using more pillows or moving the furniture. Give honest compliments, such as “You look rested today.” Support your friend’s feelings. Allow them to be negative, withdrawn, or silent. Resist the urge to change the subject. Don’t urge your friend to fight the disease if they feel it’s too hard to do it. Don’t tell them how strong they are; they may feel the need to act strong even when they’re sad or exhausted. Be sure to include your friend when talking to others in the room. Assume that your friend can hear you even if they seem to be asleep or dazed. Don’t offer medical advice or your opinions on things like diet, vitamins, and herbal therapies. Don’t remind them of past behaviors that might be related to the illness, such as drinking or smoking. Some people feel guilty over those things. Ask your friend questions. Ask for their advice and opinions. What you can do: Errands and projects Many people want to help friends facing a difficult time. Keep in mind that wanting to help and offering to be there for your friend is what matters most. Take care of any urgent errands your friend or the caregiver needs right away. Run an errand for the caregiver; it’s as helpful as an errand for your friend. Your friend may appreciate it more if you take care of frequent, scheduled errands, rather than fewer ones that take a lot of time. Plan projects in advance and start them only after talking with the caregiver. Suggested ideas: Get a list of tasks. Organize friends, neighbors, and co-workers to help complete the tasks on a regular, weekly basis. There are special websites that can help with this. Make lunch for your friend and their caregiver one day a week. If your friend is getting chemo, ask what they feel like eating. Clean your friend’s home for an hour every Saturday. Care for your friend’s lawn or garden once a month. Baby-sit, pet-sit, or take care of your friend’s plants. Return or pick up library books, movies, or books on CD. Buy groceries. Go to the post office. Pick up prescriptions. Help make to-do lists. Record an important event or funny TV show for your friend. Drive family or friends to and from the airport or a hotel. Help by driving family or friends or running errands. What you can do: How to offer support Some people find it hard to accept support – even when they need it. Don’t be surprised or hurt if your friend refuses help. It’s not you. It’s more about their pride and their need for independence. Provide emotional support through your presence and your touch. Help the caregiver. In doing so, you will help your friend. Many people are afraid of being a burden to their loved ones. Offer practical ideas on what you can do to help, and then follow through. Assume your help is needed, even if family, friends, or hired help is also helping out. What you can do: Gifts Look for small, practical things your friend may need or just enjoy. Think about what their average day is like and what might make it a little better. It’s always good to laugh and smile, too, so look for fun things for your friend. Make sure gifts are useful right away. Small gifts given frequently are usually better than large, one-time gifts. Give a gift to the caregiver; it’s as welcome as a gift to your friend. Insist that a thank-you note is not needed. Suggested ideas: Soft or silly socks Bright, soft washcloths, towels, and sheets Silk or satin pillowcases Unusual toiletries, such as cologne, soaps, lotion, and makeup Stamped postcards Favorite or unusual foods or snacks Self-care items, such as a cancer resource book, a special pillow, or a heating pad A massage device A small cordless phone Pictures of friends A CD or download of your friend’s favorite soothing music or nature sounds Funny movies Audio books Everyone, no matter how strong, can benefit from having a friend. Your friend with cancer needs you and your support. For information, day-to-day help, and emotional support, visit or call 1-800-227-2345 anytime, day or night.
November 26th, 2015 1:09pm
You can provide them support by simply talking to them and asking them what they need help with. You can maybe donate to charities providing support to them.
November 27th, 2015 1:48am
Be there for them, listen without always feeling like you have to have an answer. Let them know that you are there for them (even though it can be very difficult to watch someone endure treatments, etc) I know it can seem pretty depressing or hard to find joy in a situation like this, but try to bring some humor to a conversation and keep it uplifting when possible - they really need that to stay strong sometimes. My best friend passed away from cancer when I was 17 (he was 19). The one thing that he wanted was just to talk about everyday things, joke around, and play his guitar. If they have a hobby or something that they enjoy, maybe offer to do it with them or get them the things necessary so they can continue doing it.
November 27th, 2015 6:24am
You can volunteer at the hospital in the cancer ward. Decorating rooms, putting together kits of fun stuff, helping do holiday crafts, or making cards of encouragement with your school are all great ways to help.
November 27th, 2015 11:35pm
Cancer is very hard to go through, or watch someone experience it. Offer to just be there for them without offering health advice. Listen, assist them with daily activities etc
November 28th, 2015 2:04am
Just being there with the person and supporting them. You need to show them that they are not fighting alone and that you will be there by there side every step of the way.
November 29th, 2015 1:33am
I cannot find a cure, but give them all the emotional support possible :) Since families can be devastated on a loved one having cancer, I want them to at least have a little joy and hope, and that is exactly what I would provide. Or at least what I will try to do.
November 29th, 2015 3:40pm
This is very vague but I'm assuming you mean in general. Supporting anyone who's going through any sort of emotional trauma as well as physical is more than enough in lots of cases. Simply being there for them and listening to them helps. What also helps is not to get carried away and start treating them like they can't fend for themselves, even if it is true, don't make it obvious that you're offering them what they may deem as "charity". Ask them if they would like a hand before trying to help. Helping around the house with chores if possible is also useful but don't get too dominant with it as they may get offended. Try not to take anything they say to you that is offensive too harshly. Emotions run high especially when you're told you have something such as this and chances are, they don't mean what they say and will feel bad for saying it. Above all, listen. If they feel like talking about their emotions or whatever, just listen without interrupting. Sometimes, that's all some people need is to simply be listened to. Hope this helps.
December 2nd, 2015 12:45am
Unless you're a doctor yourself, the best thing you can do is be there as a supporter and friend for them. :)
December 2nd, 2015 7:50pm
Support them! (This may be a scary time for them) Research about how to help theres loads of sites.
December 3rd, 2015 4:10pm
Well, celebrities dress up for cancer patients or they do fun things like paint nails or sing with them. You can do this stuff too. Even if they don't make it ( :( ), they had a fun time when he/she was still there.
December 4th, 2015 3:43am
Just being supportive is great, especially when it comes to physical ailments, physical ailments can lead to many mental changes, and most of the time in cases like cancer or other terminal diseases, support and compassion is all someone needs to get through the day at hand.
December 4th, 2015 9:20pm
Support them. Show them that you care and you will be there for them no matter what they are doing. You an do this by helping them or guiding them as much as possible.
December 5th, 2015 12:19pm
I have been in your situation and all you can do is be there for the person and know that you care for them
December 6th, 2015 4:33pm
I don't think that there is much you can do to help them. The best thing you can do to help them is to support them and to be there for them.
January 4th, 2016 3:19am
Be as supporting as you possibly can, its unbelievably distressing for those involved, don't treat them any different they are still the same person and always will be.
January 25th, 2016 4:11am
mental support is the best thing, support them, never leave, always give positive vibe so they will fight their cancer
February 2nd, 2016 6:20pm
This questions seems to be very hard. It depends on the person itself. Somebody needs more sensitive support some of them not. To my opinion one of the most important things is to be empathic. Don't give them the feeling of beeing very sick. Spend them energy, strength and your power. Integrate them into life. Let them work, or study or doing housework (as much there able to of course). Spend them hope. Because hope is one of the most powerful thing in life that people can spend.
July 5th, 2016 7:38am
Be there for them. Let them know they're not alone. Don't treat them like they are their illness. In other words, let them know that even though they have cancer, you don't think any less of them.
August 30th, 2016 2:58am
Provide them with love and tenderness. Show courage rather than sadness. Lift up their hopes by making them feel like a person rather than a doctor's paycheck. Flowers and cards are lovely, but can be too much sometimes. Depending on the situation, see if there house needs tending to, or any other ways you can take their place with tasks they are unable to accomplish.
October 25th, 2016 11:23am
i think that people who are diagnosed with cancer go through a lot of mental stress and be being there for them is the best way to help , try to support them through their journey , be positive around them as positivity is contagious
October 25th, 2016 11:27pm
I use support them! Treat them like any normal human being! They are going through a massive change in their life they just need some normality and not to be treated like a patient!
February 28th, 2017 11:49pm
Unless you find the cure for cancer you can't cure them but if you want to help them all you need to do is one simple thing, show them you care. Cancer is life threatening disease, you never know if it's your last day. If you want to help people with cancer you should be there for them, whether it's hanging out for 5 minutes or doing an activity (such as drawing or watching tv) showing them you care is one of the most important ways you can help.
April 17th, 2018 2:14pm
You can donate to them, visit them in hospitals and maybe get them a treat or a gift, the only way to help them is by praying for them and making them smile:) because chemo is bery tough, and they need energy and by making them happy your giving them positive energy
July 2nd, 2018 11:13am
Be available to talk and offer support. Show love. Show compassion. Listen to their feelings. Fundraise.
July 17th, 2018 2:15pm
You can help people with cancer in different ways. Treating them normally is a great way. Ask them what it is you can do. Ask them how thier illness impacts thier life. Have a coffee with them. Just be there for them. Take them to hospital appointments. Give them a phone call. Give them a hug. Make them laugh. Enjoy them and make nice memories as this is a traumatic time for all involved. Remember like every experience there is no right or wrong way.