When a friend or family member is dealing with cancer, it can be hard to know how best to support them. You may be unsure how to respond and uncertain about what their needs are after they discover a lump and are now facing a challenging time. You might worry about upsetting your loved one by talking about their illness. You’re likely to feel upset with yourself, since it can be hard to watch someone you care about go through such a difficult experience.

People going through traditional and alternative breast cancer treatment are likely to have new emotional and practical needs. By helping to meet some of these needs, you can improve your loved one’s quality of life. Feeling loved, understood and supported by others during any difficult time in life can help people feel less alone and better able to cope. Know that your presence and care can make a positive impact for your loved one undergoing cancer treatment.

Here are 10 ways to help a friend or family member with breast cancer.

#1 Be a regular presence

Having cancer can be isolating. Joining a cancer support group, or even participating in breast cancer awareness events and fundraisers with friends, family, and other cancer survivors can help to combat this sense of isolation. Showing up to visit, keeping in touch regularly over phone or text will let your loved one know that you will be there for them during the long road ahead. It’s essential to keep in mind that each patient is different and some may need more help than others when it comes to their individual cancer treatment plan. More than anything, staying engaged throughout your loved one’s battle with breast cancer shows them that you care and are thinking of them; frequent, regular check-ins can be better than long visits as the effects of chemotherapy or radiation can take a toll on their energy levels.

#2 Be a good listener

Ask how your loved one is feeling and simply listen. Pay full attention and acknowledge their response. Ask follow up questions if it seems like they want to keep talking. Your loved one may have many different, even conflicting thoughts and feelings about what they are going through. It helps some people to acknowledge and process their feelings through talking. Other people may prefer to discuss other things, and this can help them continue to feel connected to other aspects of life beyond cancer. Your loved one’s preferences may vary by the hour, day or week. Let them know that you are receptive to listening, whatever they prefer to talk about.1

#3 Be open

If you’re not sure what to say or how to help, don’t be afraid to acknowledge this to your friend or family member. Being open about any awkwardness or uncertainty you feel can help break tension and build intimacy. In supporting someone with cancer, simply showing you care is more important than figuring out the exact right words at any moment. Often, words are less important than your presence.

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#4 Ask – and ask again – how you can help

People often want to avoid being a burden to others, and might turn down initial offers to help. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, especially if your loved one is a breast cancer patient who has just received a diagnosis, they may not know what kind of help they need. They might simply feel overwhelmed with the news. Over time, though, this may become clearer. If you’re willing to help with company, errands, meals or anything else, remind your friend occasionally, without pressure. If you keep checking in, they may realize your offer is sincere and eventually take you up on your offer.

Asking how you can help on a regular basis is also a good way to find out what kind of help your loved one prefers. Keep in mind that along with practical assistance, there are many different ways to offer emotional support too. Not all of them involve talking about emotions or treatment, or even talking at all. A caring touch like a hug, arm around a shoulder or even a handshake can be comforting. An offer of quiet company, simply spending a few hours together, even if you’re each reading your own books, can also provide meaningful support. Perhaps arranging a weekly activity or walk would help your loved one stay active and engaged in things that they enjoy and promote their well-being. You can offer all of these forms of support to your loved one and see how they respond.

#5 Prepare meals

Good nutrition is important during cancer treatment. It can help in recovery as well as improve your loved one’s quality of life, boosting their mood and energy levels. At the same time, it can be difficult for cancer patients and their families to find time and energy to prepare nutritious meals. This is where some help from family and friends can really make a difference.

Before dropping off meals, however, be aware that cancer and cancer treatment can change the way some foods taste or smell and may make certain foods unappealing. Emotional aspects of cancer and treatment can impact appetite, too.2 For these reasons, it’s best to check with your friend or family member and find out what kinds of foods they prefer before dropping off meals.

If this is a kind of help your loved one wants, you might consider making it a weekly habit, or perhaps organizing other friends to provide some meals on a regular basis. This can take some of the housekeeping burden off your loved one. If the patient wants more social contact, you could offer to stay for the meal and clean up, too. Just find out what they prefer.

#6 Run errands

Grocery shopping and other tasks can be exhausting when someone is going through cancer treatment. Find out if there are any simple tasks you can help with that you can combine with your own errands on a regular basis. Or simply check in periodically and mention you’re running to the store and would be happy to pick up a few things for them if they’d like. Helping with these kinds of everyday errands can give your loved one more time to rest or do other things to take care of themselves. They’re also a way to show you care.

#7 Help the caregiver

If the patient has someone close to them who is taking on a lot of care responsibility, like a grown child or spouse, you can check in with both the patient and the caregiver about any ways you can support the caregiver. This will benefit the patient, too.3 Perhaps spending an afternoon or evening with the patient would give the caregiver a much-needed break and allow them to recharge. Maybe the caregiver could use a sympathetic ear or some company themselves, or help with a specific task or chore. Taking care of another person can be physically and emotionally demanding, despite if the patient is receiving a traditional or alternative treatment plan. Recognizing this and offering to support the caregiver along with the person undergoing cancer treatment can be an especially thoughtful way to help out when someone has cancer, as oftentimes the needs of caregivers go overlooked.

#8 Help with family needs

When someone has cancer, it impacts their whole family, especially if the patient has dependents like children and pets. Often, cancer patients are concerned about meeting the needs of the people they love who rely on them. Find out whether there is anything you can do to ensure the family needs of the patient are met.4 You might offer to spend time with children, giving them another trusted adult to lean on and talk to, if needed. Perhaps offering to help with rides would allow them to continue with after-school activities. Maybe the family dog needs more walks than they’re getting. Anything you can do to help meet the needs of the family of a cancer patient will help to relieve stress and give the patient peace of mind.

#9 Organize others who want to help

If your loved one could use regular help with things like grocery shopping, cleaning or meal preparation and there are other people willing to pitch in, you might step up and offer to organize an assistance schedule.5 This can ensure the patient doesn’t have to take on the administrative burden of organizing other people’s offers of help. Instead, the patient can refer anyone interested in helping out to you, and you can coordinate the group and ensure everyone has the information needed to be most useful (dietary preferences and days when meals are needed, for example).

#10 Be accepting

Having cancer and going through traditional and alternative cancer treatment are extremely challenging and personal experiences. A range of different feelings and reactions are normal, and these can change hour to hour and day to day. Be accepting of your loved one’s feelings as they are. Don’t insist that the person must always be positive, instruct them to “fight hard” and beat the cancer, or express certainty that they will recover. Though well-intentioned, these kinds of attitudes can be insensitive to their complex emotional and physical reality. It’s completely normal for people to experience sadness, anger and fear when faced with such a difficult life event.6

In addition, pressuring someone to feel positive is not an effective strategy! Often, people in distress start to feel better when they feel heard and accepted without judgment. If the patient is told what to do or how to feel, they may determine that their feelings are wrong or shameful and stop sharing them. This can increase the isolation many cancer patients feel.

If you are worried that your loved one is becoming depressed or has a serious mental health issue, you can share your concern with them. Suggest they find a support group or therapist with expertise in helping people with cancer. You might offer to do some research and identify groups or professionals that can help, if they are open to it.

Research shows that people who have strong emotional and social support during cancer treatment often fare best, experiencing a better quality of life and an easier time coping with the changes and challenges of cancer. They also express more positive attitudes.7 You can help make a difference for your loved one during their cancer treatment by providing emotional and practical support using some of the ideas above.

At the Immunity Therapy Center, we honor the importance of family and friends for breast cancer patients. We recognize the important role a holistic sense of well-being plays during treatment, including emotional and social support. In fact, we find that patients who are able to sustain a more positive outlook, with the help of caring people around them, often have better treatment outcomes.

To learn about our alternative breast cancer treatment options, contact the Immunity Therapy Center today.


Written By: Dr. David Alvarez

Dr. David Alvarez is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Xochicalco and Certified by the American Heart Association (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support).

Dr. Alvarez has been collaborating with Dr. Bautista as an Assistant Medical Director at the Immunity Therapy Center for over 6 years. He provides daily on site patient care and participates on the medical board on research and development of patient treatment plans and programs. Dr. Alvarez is a knowledgeable and compassionate Doctor committed to helping patients get to where they want to be health wise through a more holistic and comprehensive approach.



  1. “How to Support Someone With Cancer.” Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/family-friends-caregivers/how-support-someone-with-cancer. Accessed 25 Jan. 2023.
  2. “Nutrition for People with Cancer.” American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/coping/nutrition.html. Accessed 25 Jan. 2023.
  3. “How to Be a Friend to Someone with Cancer.” American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/treatment/caregivers/how-to-be-a-friend-to-someone-with-cancer.html. Accessed 25 Jan. 2023.
  4. “14 Things Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer Want You to Know.” Health.com, https://www.health.com/condition/breast-cancer/what-to-know-about-metastatic-breast-cancer. Accessed 25 Jan. 2023.
  5. “How to Help.” Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, https://www.breastcancerfoundation.org.nz/support/helping-someone-with-breast-cancer-with-breast-cancer/how-to-help. Accessed 25 Jan. 2023.
  6. “6 Tips for Caregivers From People Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer.” Breastcancer.org, https://www.breastcancer.org/types/metastatic/life-with-metastatic/tips-for-metastatic-caregivers. Accessed 25 Jan. 2023.
  7. “How to Be a Friend to Someone with Cancer.” American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/treatment/caregivers/how-to-be-a-friend-to-someone-with-cancer.html. Accessed 25 Jan. 2023.


February 11, 2023

Dr. Carlos Bautista is a Board Certified Medical Doctor. He received his Medical Degree from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California and has more than 20 years of experience working with Alternative Medicine to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases, chronic degenerative diseases, and infectious diseases. He opened Immunity Therapy Center in 2007 with the goal of providing the highest quality medical care for more than 5,000 patients.

At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.