Cervical Cancer

How cervical cancer affects family and other people

Decisions about whether to discuss a serious illness with others can be difficult. The need for support has to be weighed up against the desire for privacy. Sometimes people react to the news in a way that is unhelpful to the patient. Wanting to protect certain people from distress may also be a consideration.

Although some women talked about their illness only with family members, many discussed their diagnosis with friends and work colleagues. A few felt that a gynaecological illness was a 'taboo' subject or too personal to discuss with others.

A few had found it difficult and emotionally draining telling others outside the family about their illness. Some told their work colleagues themselves. A few asked their boss or personnel manager to tell the news. One woman explains how she put off telling people at work and finally asked someone to do it for her and felt relieved when people got in contact and were very supportive. Another explains how she found it difficult knowing what to say because her friends were so upset by her news.

Some had found it very difficult telling their parents, particularly their elderly mothers, and had tried to minimise the shock and worry by being positive and 'jolly'. A few did not tell their elderly parents until later, or not at all, because they were worried about the effect it would have on them. One woman explains how her father never used the word 'cancer' and because she wanted to protect her parents she didn't talk about her illness in detail with them.

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Many had found that when they did tell others they received considerable support and acts of kindness. Some said being ill had brought out the good in people.

Several described the support they had received from their husbands or partners. Some said their partners had kept their feelings to themselves and while they very good at giving practical support they had found it difficult to be emotionally supportive. Some women had found that their mothers were particularly supportive and had been very protective towards them. A few talked about the strength and support they had received from their siblings.

Many described receiving considerable support from their friends and said their friendships had become stronger because of their illness. One woman recalled how some friends found the news difficult to cope with while others were unexpectedly supportive. Another, who had regular cervical screening tests, explained how her friends had become more aware of the need to go for regular cervical screening tests.

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Sometimes people seemed not to know how to react when their relative, friend or work colleague told them they have cancer. One woman found it very upsetting when she learnt she had cancer while on holiday with her extended family, who went back to their hotel rooms shortly after she told them the news.

Another found it difficult when her family didn't want to discuss the implications of her illness. A third who had just started a new job when she was diagnosed said that some of her colleagues didn't know what to say to her, after her boss, who she had spoken to confidentially, had told them without her permission.

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Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated July 2017.


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