Lung Cancer

How it affects family and friends

People said that when they first told family members about their lung cancer they were usually met with expressions of shock, fear, and distress - some did not know how to react and seemed embarrassed.

Relationships within families can change as the result of illness, and sometimes news of the diagnosis helped to bring family members closer together. Some patients became aware of how important they were to their family and friends.

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It was sometimes hard to predict how other people would react to the diagnosis. Most family members offered great support, but a few people complained that support had not been forthcoming when they needed it. Some people emphasised that their loved ones had to face a very difficult time too and needed support and reassurance themselves. (See also 'Telling the children and grandchildren').

Many people said that their friends felt uncomfortable and avoided them once they knew about the cancer diagnosis. Some of those with lung cancer found that others would cross the road to avoid a conversation because they did not know what to say. They thought that their friends were either embarrassed by the situation, or that they did not want to confront the idea of death. It was also suggested that other people might think that lung cancer patients were to blame because they had smoked. (Also see 'Feelings of stigma, shame and guilt about having lung cancer'). 

Other people, however, reported that friends had been marvellous, helping with shopping, offering lifts to the hospital, providing practical help and making normal conversation as usual.

A few people said that they wanted other people to treat them as they had treated them before the diagnosis. They didn't want others to react with tears. Others commented that they did not want fake sympathy. 

Some people realised that the diagnosis and the illness had made them self-absorbed or short tempered. 

One man said since his diagnosis of lung cancer his friends and family had reassessed their lives, their working conditions, and use of recreational drugs. A woman said that as soon as she told her friends that she was ill they had sent her flowers, and then rushed to their doctors for checks-ups, fearing they might be ill too.

Last reviewed May 2016.



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