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What Not to Say to Someone with Prostate Cancer

Last updated: January 2022

Unless someone has experienced cancer themselves, they often do not know what to say. So often, friends and family, upon learning someone has cancer, say things that are unhelpful at best and rude at worst.

To hear more about what your experience has been in telling others about your prostate cancer, we reached out on ProstateCancer.net and asked: “What are things NOT to say to someone with prostate cancer?”

Nearly 40 people responded to the question, and here is what you had to say.

You do not look like you have cancer

Too often, people speak without thinking, often commenting about someone’s appearance -- as if that is the sole indicator of health. It is not uncommon for the public to think that anyone with cancer will be bald from chemo and have a loss of rosy color in their complexion.

What they are not considering is the many stages of cancer, and how cancer shows up differently in most people. ‘You do not look like you have cancer’ is not a helpful comment for someone to say -- but it does not mean they do not care about you. If you are comfortable teaching, you may consider telling them that you would rather they just ask you how you are feeling.

“You sure? You do not look like you have cancer.”

“You are looking pretty good, or how is it hanging? My response to the first question is ‘Looks are deceiving’ and ‘Do not ask because you do not want to know’.”

At least you only got prostate cancer

There is no such thing as a ‘good’ cancer. All cancers are emotionally and physically painful -- which is a hard truth for most people to accept. When people quickly brush aside your pain, it is not because they do not care. It is that most people are so unable to sit with their own pain, much less that of someone else. If someone says this to you, one possible response is to say that their words feel dismissive and that this experience has been difficult for you.

“Oh, that is a good cancer to have.”

“At least you only got prostate cancer. I hear that is the best cancer to have if you got cancer!”

How is your love life?

This can certainly feel like a jarring question. It is nothing but rude for someone to ask about how your sex life has been impacted by prostate cancer -- which, by the way, is never the cause of any erectile dysfunction. Rather, it is the treatments that can often affect one’s sex life. As for this question, one tactic to sidestep this is deflection. Redirect the question at them, or, better still, ask why the answer to that question matters to them.

“How is your love life?”

“So, you are a eunuch now?”

How you been feeling?

It is certainly easy to say the wrong thing to someone with prostate cancer, but what about saying the right thing? A few of you shared what you wish people would ask -- which is just a simple, heartfelt: How are you feeling? We all want to know that others care about us, and going through cancer only heightens that feeling.

“How about saying NOTHING but ‘I hope you get a resolution soon?’”

“How have you been feeling?”

We want to say thank you to everyone who offered their thoughts and feedback for this story.

Now it is your turn...in the comments tell us what is NOT right to say to someone living with prostate cancer.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The ProstateCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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