4 ways to help a friend with breast cancer

hand holding breast cancer ribbon

When a friend is diagnosed with breast cancer, you want to do the right thing, but may wonder what the right thing is. Try these strategies, shared by people who have been there:

1. Listen

You don’t have to have answers. Avoid clichés and comments like, “Everything will be fine.” Allow your friend to share what she wishes, but also respect her silence or the request to talk about something else.

2. Help with chores

Ask your friend how you can help, and offer some practical ideas. Could your friend use someone to mow the lawn? Or pick up the kids? Or provide a meal?

3. Don’t forget the family

Partners and children may be struggling, too. Ask your friend’s family how they are doing. Find out what they have shared with their children and what they would like you to say if the kids ask questions. Honor your friend’s decisions and avoid advice unless asked.

4. Be there for the long haul

Breast cancer treatment may last a year or more. Put it on your calendar to continue to check in with your friend for the duration of her treatment. Often, your support is needed most later on.

Originally published Sept. 24, 2015. Last updated Oct. 26, 2020.

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