The Truth About Cancer
Take One Step: A PBS Health Campaign
The Truth About Cancer + Take One Step: A Conversation About Cancer with Linda Ellerbee  

Speak Up For Yourself!
< Resources for Living with and through Cancer

For people living with problems related to cancer, effective communication is critical. It's important to talk about your cancer in a way that helps others understand your needs and wishes. So how do you put that into practice? How do you communicate clearly and speak up—or advocate—for your own needs with your health care team and with concerned family members and friends?

During this stressful period, consider these five basic skills:

Communicate with Your Health Care Team

Establishing a good relationship with your health care providers is vital. Patience, mutual respect, and a shared understanding of each person's role are key elements. The following are a number of ways you can advocate for yourself and ensure that you are communicating effectively.

Communicate with Family Members

Speaking with your family members and well-meaning friends can be more stressful than communicating with your health care team. Your family and friends have the greatest investment in your well-being, yet they may be fearful of saying the wrong thing or, in some cases, second-guessing your decisions. At the same time, many cancer patients withhold information because they don't want others to worry, or they simply expect family members to know what to say or do.

With these relationships, the key is to express what you want and need—while doing your best to understand what others are thinking and feeling. If you prefer not to share some details, be clear about your wishes. On the other hand, if you want a certain level of support, make that clear. Everyone benefits from effective communication and an understanding of your needs.


National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship
"Cancer Survival Toolbox"
Visit the following sections: Communicating, Standing Up For Your Rights, Making Decisions.

"First Steps"

"Teamwork: The Cancer Patient's Guide To Talking With Your Doctor" (PDF)

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