Tips For Talking To Someone About A Brain Tumour Diagnosis

Portrait Of Young Smiling Woman Talking To Psychologist At Thera

Talking to someone about their brain tumour diagnosis can be challenging, no matter how well you know them. It is naturally a distressing time, but well-meaning words can sometimes strike the wrong note. Here are some tips on how to speak to someone about a brain tumour.


Listen to them first

It might be tempting to offer some glib reassurances that everything will be alright, but this can sound dismissive and unrealistic: no one can predict exactly what lies ahead. It is better to simply listen to a person’s fears so that they feel acknowledged and offer your support and empathy.

However, don’t avoid the subject if someone wants to talk about their diagnosis. They are likely to feel a range of deep and difficult emotions, such as fear, confusion, anger, or sadness. They may simply be in shock and just need a supportive companion. If you don’t know what to say, just admit this rather than avoid the subject.


Don’t dismiss invisible symptoms

If a person’s appearance seems to be unaltered by an illness, it can be tempting to tell them that they look well. This might be kindly meant as reassurance or a morale booster, but it can be dismissive of hidden symptoms.

Common brain tumour symptoms that may not be immediately obvious include fatigue, nausea, headaches, memory problems, and loss of taste and smell. Ask someone how they feel and be ready to help if you can. For example, if someone is struggling with tiredness, you may be able to help them out with chores such as shopping or meal preparation.


Don’t tell them about someone else’s experience

A common reaction to difficult news is to tell the person about someone else you knew in a similar situation, to try and show that you understand. This can be an attempt at empathy, but everyone’s case is unique, and they will probably have a different journey through their diagnosis and treatment and how they respond to it.

It is best to just let the person know that you are ready to listen if they want to talk about it and leave the specifics about their treatment plan and how they might react to it up to their medical team.

Work on active listening skills to make sure that you are giving the person time to speak, and that you are pausing to reflect on your responses rather than replying with glib phrases such as ‘you are so brave.’

If the person complains about a symptom such as vision disturbances, don’t launch into an anecdote about your own eyesight issues or those of someone you know. Just acknowledge how the person is feeling and offer any practical suggestions and support that you can.

Keep in mind that the impact of a brain tumour can last beyond the treatment.

Just because someone has finished their treatment for a brain tumour, it doesn’t mean that the normality has returned. They might be experiencing side effects, so it is important to keep up with your support.


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