If you are taking care of people with cancer, you have to understand that the battle they are facing can greatly affect them. Their life has been greatly impacted by the condition which can result in stress, anxiety and depression. This is why you need to be extra sensitive in how you communicate with a cancer patient.
Here are some of the questions to never ask a cancer patient.
1. How are you feeling?
This is a typical example that might come as a surprise to a lot of people but the fact of the matter is that it isn’t. Most people tend to ask this question to cancer patients a lot because they assume it will show that they are concerned about the patient and really care but most cancer patients agree that such a question, if asked frequently can get a bit overwhelming and after a while will become annoying. In most cases, someone suffering from cancer might not be feeling so great, so instead of taking away their pain, such a question can act to remind them of what they are going through which won’t really work well with them.
2. Can I do anything to help?
This is another question which you should try to think twice over before asking. The only probable response you are likely to receive from asking such a question is a polite ‘No’. And a no doesn’t necessarily mean that the patient don’t want you to do anything about the situation. It’s most likely that they want you to but are just a bit overwhelmed to think of anything. Besides asking the specific question, you should try to avoid having to put them in situations that will push them to think a lot. If possible, do the thinking and just portray your concern through your actions instead.
3. How serious is the cancer?
I am not going to beat around the bush on this one. You should never ever in your lifetime ask such a question to someone recovering from cancer, it will just trigger a lot of negative emotions in them. If possible, try avoiding any sensitive questions that are related to their diagnosis or current treatment plans. Other questions in this category includes those questions related to their Chemo sessions such as how many chemo sessions they have and if they are getting any radiation and such. They are stressful and should be avoided.
4. Have you ever tried doing [insert advice]?
If you are not an experienced medical professional or in some cases, a cancer survivor yourself, then never offer to give unsolicited advice to a cancer patient. These days, information is basically everywhere and yes, you can Google for some tips on how to deal with cancer but trust me, it won’t be cool to copy those tips and try to advice someone to apply them in their own life. All a cancer patient needs from you is your unconditional support and trust me, it will give them a lot of relief knowing that they will always have it regardless of the situation.
5. What happened for you to get cancer?
The answer to the above question is simple, they don’t know. Ask any cancer patient what they did to get cancer, they most probable reply they will give you is that they don’t really know and that reply is a really honest one. The only thing people know about cancer is what it is and how it affects the body not what causes it. Consider something like lung cancer, the major cause of lung cancer is smoking but did you know that that’s just an assumption? There are other causes of that type of cancer which are not popular. By asking the patient what caused their type of cancer, you would be indirectly assigning blame to them which might cause them to end up feeling guilty over it.
6. Are you scared?
I’ve heard a lot of people ask this question to cancer patients. Well, it’s not such a good idea. Cancer is among one of the most widespread diseases that can be complicated to cure. Chances are when one is affected by it, they are most likely scared most of the times. Dealing with that fear takes a lot of work in itself which is why you should not bring it up by asking them if they are afraid time and again. Just be there to reassure them and let them believe and know that they will get through it. Everything is just a phase in the end.
7. I know how you feel
I know this is not a question but it’s still something that should be avoided. If you haven’t had an experience with cancer before, chances are, you really don’t understand and know how they feel about. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about then. You should try avoiding to use the word I whenever you are communicating with a cancer patient. It’s not about you.
I know the tone seemed a little bit tough but I figured there was no better way for me to use for you to really get it. Cancer is a sensitive condition and those going through it are warriors in their own right and as such, they should be handled with extreme care.