World Cancer Day

By Rachel Lamb . 03/02/2017 · 5 Minute read

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Cancer is something that, sadly, affects most of us. In fact, in 2012 there were 14.1 million new cases of cancer worldwide (not to mention the existing cases). Therefore, it is highly likely you will know someone who is affected by it, whether that’s yourself, a friend or family member.

Knowing someone with cancer can be extremely difficult. You want to help them as much as possible, however, you don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. As the 4th February is World Cancer Day, we thought we would find some ways to help if someone you know is diagnosed with cancer.

On First Hearing the News

You’ve just found out that someone you love has cancer- what do you do?

Those who have emotional support through cancer tend to remain more positive and adjust better to life whilst getting used to their illness. So, assure them you’ll be there throughout the journey. Ask questions to see if they’ve discussed a treatment plan and when it begins so you can check up on them, maybe even assist with transport.

It’s important not to offer any medical advice, such as herbal remedies or changes in diet; their personal doctor will know best and will have a plan suited to their personal needs.

New Terms You May Come Across

If you haven’t known somebody with cancer before, you may hear a lot of new terms or terms you’ve heard around, but not known the meaning of. Here are some of the main ones you’re likely to encounter:

Malignant: the cell is cancerous

Benign: a tumour that isn’t cancerous 

Stage: this refers to how far the cancer has spread. Stage 1 means it is localised to one area and can simply be surgically removed if small enough. On the other end of the scale is Stage 4, which means the cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the body. This will need to be treated either by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery or even a combination of these.

Oncologist: a doctor who specialises in Cancer

Biopsy:  where tissue is removed for examination

Chemotherapy: a drug treatment used to treat cancer

Radiotherapy: when high energy rays, such as x-rays, are used to treat the cancer

Metastasised: when the cancer cells spread through the lymphatic system or bloodstream

Things to Say and Ways to Show Support

It’s ok to talk about what is happening to your friend or family member- in fact that’s great, unless they have specifically asked you not to. If you gain as thorough an understanding as possible on how they’re coping and what’s happening, you’ll know how to assist them better.

If they aren’t the type of person to complain or talk about things, you can ask their main carer (if that’s not you) to see what they think would make the biggest difference to them. If they’re staying home a lot, you could treat them to some cosy lounge wear, fluffy blankets or something like a massage chair!

Maybe they’ve been craving food from their favourite restaurant but don’t feel up to going out- why not bring the restaurant to them? You could see if the restaurant would be happy to box the meal up for you; failing this, you could attempt to make a homemade version!

Don’t feel like you have to be sad and look worried the whole time you are around your friend or family member- they know how much you care and will welcome positive conversation. Tell them something silly that you or a mutual friend has done over the last few days. Snapchat is also a great tool for making them laugh when you’re not there; the changing filters can be hilarious!

Be careful when saying things about how strong they are. That may put pressure on them to act a certain way around you, when actually they’re really struggling that day. You can make them feel strong and needed in other ways though; try asking their advice on something, keep them feeling included.


Even though cancer does affect so many, the treatments available are constantly improving. Events like World Cancer Day exist to promote their research, so they can get the funding they need to prevent cancer in the future.

Is there something you could do to raise money and promote awareness? Check out ‘The Great Your World Bake-Off’ we held, it may be something you can bring to your work place too!

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