Dealing With Cancer

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2014

Key Messages:

  • Dealing with cancer is tough, and talking about how you are feeling can be difficult. Fortunately, there are many ways you can find support.
  • Your health care team, family, friends, and other teens with cancer can help you cope with cancer and manage your feelings in different ways.
  • Many teens find it helpful to talk with a counselor, social worker, or therapist. These professionals are often available through your treatment center.

Coping with cancer can be tough sometimes. Many teens with cancer find that they need different kinds of support throughout their cancer experience. Your parents, friends, other teens with cancer, and your health care team can provide important support in different ways.

Talking with your doctors and nurses

Talking with your doctors and nurses is often difficult at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Nobody knows how you are feeling better than you. Doctors and nurses are experts in treating cancer and want to help you, but they are not mind readers, so it is important to talk openly and honestly with them about how you are feeling. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Be straightforward about how you are feeling, including whether you are experiencing any side effects, such as pain, not having any energy, or not wanting to eat. It's important for your health care team to know how your body is dealing with the cancer and the treatment.
  • If you are in the hospital, tell the nurses and other hospital staff what you need. The doctors, nurses, and trained volunteers are there to help you be as comfortable as possible.
  • If you still feel a little uncomfortable at first, ask your parents to help you find the right words.

It’s also important to remember that your health care team can put you in touch with other types of support, such as a support group for teens with cancer or a counselor, social worker, or therapist.

Talking with family and friends

Talking with someone you trust, such as a friend, teacher, or someone in your religious community, can help you sort out what you're feeling and thinking. Remember that your friends and family, especially your parents, are often some of your best supporters. Learn more about how to talk with your family and friends.

Talking with other teens with cancer

Other teenagers with cancer understand how you're feeling and what you're worried about. In addition to providing emotional support, other teens with cancer may be able to offer suggestions for dealing with treatment side effects, school issues, and talking with your doctor. The following tips can help you get in touch with other teenagers with cancer:

  • Talk with teens you meet at the hospital or treatment center.
  • Check your hospital or treatment center for support groups for teens with cancer who meet on a regular basis to share their experiences and offer each other support.
  • Find organizations dedicated to helping people with cancer.
  • Check with other websites for teens with cancer.
  • Ask your nurse or doctor for recommendations.

Connecting online

The Internet can be a great tool to connect with other teens with cancer. Talking online is sometimes easier than talking in person, especially if you're talking about something difficult. Let your parents know before you start chatting online, and be careful about giving out personal information, such as your name, address, or telephone number. Don’t be afraid to ask a nurse or doctor about anything you hear or read that sounds scary or unfamiliar. Each person’s treatment plan and reaction to that treatment is a little different. Find online groups and organizations that offer support.

Getting professional help

Even if you're getting support from your family and friends, a professional counselor, social worker, or therapist can help you and your family talk through your feelings about cancer. Most hospitals and treatment centers have mental health professionals who are trained to help teens cope with cancer. Ask your doctor to recommend a counselor who has experience in working with teens with cancer.

Write it down

When you don't feel like talking, writing can help. Some people write down thoughts, feelings, and dreams. Others draw or write stories or poems. You may want to create a journal or notebook just for this purpose.

More Information

Coping and Emotions

Questions to Ask Your Doctor