Talking about your diagnosis

Find out what support is available to help you tell your family and friends about your diagnosis and what to do if you're feeling lonely.

Relationships with family, friends and partners

A diagnosis of cancer can change how you feel about yourself and it can have an impact on your relationships. Some people might find it brings them closer to the people around them, while others might find that their relationships are more strained.

Your friends and family may also find life after your diagnosis hard to deal with. Friends may want to be supportive but may be very busy with their own families and careers. Some people appear to be surrounded by family and friends but still feel lonely, while others have one close friend and feel well supported and cared for.

Relationships with partners may also be affected, and these changes might be both positive and negative. You might find that your relationship is stronger as you and your partner come to terms with your diagnosis together. But in other cases your partner may not know what to say. They may be feeling many of the emotions you are, particularly if they feel you may not be able to have the same life you had planned to have together. 

Telling people about your diagnosis

Who you tell about your diagnosis, and when you tell them, is up to you. If you need to take a few hours, a few days, or longer to think about exactly what and how you are going to tell your family and friends, that’s okay.

People might react with more emotion than you're expecting. When close friends or relatives hear about your diagnosis it makes cancer a reality rather than something that happens to other people.

It's not unusual for family or friends to cry or become very quiet and this can be hard for you to cope with. It might feel as though people are avoiding you or can’t seem to talk to you in the same way as before. Often people are worried about saying the wrong thing or upsetting you. They may simply need reminding that you’re the same person as before your diagnosis. 

Taking your time to prepare and telling others when you feel strong enough to cope with their reaction will help you. If you feel that telling people might be too difficult for you, you can ask someone you trust to tell people for you. 

Hopefully, many friends and family members will be supportive and help you to get through this difficult time. Your Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS, a senior nurse who has had extra training to look after women with gynaecological cancers such as ovarian cancer) and Target Ovarian Cancer can offer support to your family and friends too so you may want to encourage them to get in touch.

Telling children

Talking to your children or grandchildren about a cancer diagnosis is not easy, whatever their age. Young children will often understand the practical side of things and have a simple understanding that you have an illness and the doctors are looking after you. They may appreciate that you might feel a little bit tired, sad or grumpy, and that everyone is doing their best to get you better. The questions they ask can give clues as to what is worrying them.

Teenagers may ask for more information and may need a little more time to work through their feelings and think about the questions they might want to ask.

Even when your children are adults themselves, finding out that a parent has cancer can be difficult to cope with. It can help to be open and honest with them about your diagnosis and how you are feeling and include them in the situation.  

What you've been told about your diagnosis will, of course, have an impact on your feelings about what you want to say. Take things one step at a time with your children, your family and your friends. 

Hereditary ovarian cancer

If you're worried that other family members may be at risk of ovarian cancer we have lots of information on hereditary ovarian cancer.

Support for family and friends

Your family and friends may benefit from getting support to cope with your diagnosis, and you may feel better to know they are supported. Target Ovarian Cancer can provide support for family, friends and carers, so ask them to get in touch, or talk to your CNS about what other support may be available in your area.

Your CNS may be able to put you in touch with a family worker to help support you and your children.

Macmillan Cancer Support has lots of useful information to help you talk about cancer.


Last reviewed: January 2021

To learn more about our review process, take a look at our information standards.

What happens next printed guide

What happens next

A guide for anyone with a recent diagnosis of ovarian cancer.