Telling friends and family your cancer has come back

Get advice on sharing the news that your cancer has returned and what to do if you're worried that other family members may be at risk of ovarian cancer.

Sharing the news 

The way you find out about the cancer coming back may affect how you share this news with others. If you receive the news alone, sharing it with other people may feel like an extra burden. There's no right or wrong way to share your news or what you choose to share. You may want to wait for a few days, weeks or longer before you tell others. You may want to ask someone close to you to let others know for you. 

Reactions of others 

You may have found from your initial diagnosis that people around you can react in very different ways. Some people may be wary of talking about cancer with you, while others will want to talk about nothing but your diagnosis. Don’t be afraid in either case to let people know when you do, or don’t, want to talk. 

You may find that people around you use words such as 'brave' and 'strong'. They may tell you they could never cope as you are. The reality is we all cope in our own way with what life throws at us. 

Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that, at least at first, responses from others will vary but those around you are likely to have good intentions. 

Both you and your family and friends may have challenging moments while coming to terms with your news. If you're finding this particularly hard, take a deep breath. We can’t control other people's reactions and emotions. It may be that encouraging your family members to speak to someone about their feelings would help them to understand your diagnosis and some of their own worries. This may help them to better support you. Being able to talk honestly about your different needs for information and support will help you to understand each other at this time. 

Target Ovarian Cancer’s support line and your clinical nurse specialist (CNS) can provide information about where friends and family can find more support

Our online community also offers a safe space for anyone affected by ovarian cancer, including family and friends, to get advice and support from others in similar situations. 

Concern for family members: genetics and hereditary ovarian cancer 

It's common to worry that other family members could be at risk of developing ovarian cancer. If you’ve been diagnosed with non-mucinous epithelial ovarian cancer (including high-grade serous ovarian cancer, the most common type) in the UK, you should be offered access to genetic testing for mutations in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, even if you have no family history of ovarian cancer. It’s likely this was done at the time of your initial treatment. But if it wasn't you can talk to your oncologist or CNS about this.  

If you have a mutation in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, your family members will be able to have genetic testing to find out if they also have the gene mutation. Read more about family history and hereditary ovarian cancer


Last reviewed: February 2022

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