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Unintended hurtful remarks to those with cancer make things worse

Any support for cancer must include emotional and mental health support as standard.

“You are cancer free now so you should be happy,” is an example of the type of real-life comment that is often aimed at those recovering from cancer and with which an individual may need emotional support.

Hurtful comments made by family, friends, employers, colleagues, and perfect strangers can be an additional burden for those dealing with the disease. That’s why it believes any support for cancer must include emotional and mental health support as standard.

The types of remarks that those with cancer have experienced and that it has provided support with. The following are all other real-life examples:

  • “I am finding your illness and treatment very draining.” (Husband comment to wife.)
  • “You will be fine.”
  • “You look so well.” (To someone who was feeling and looking ill.)
  • “Will you lose your hair?”

As well as these specific comments, many people have been told horror stories relating to treatments and how they caused suffering. Another frequent issue is that of other people becoming overly emotional and needing support from the individual with cancer, rather than the other way around.

Christine Husbands, commercial director, RedArc said: “A poorly thought-out comment or unkind remark can be very detrimental to mental health, and that can be a lot for someone to deal with on top of their physical health.”

Emotional and mental health support for cancer, such as that included within Private Medical Insurance, Group Risk benefits or Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), can help an individual process such comments and it can also help them prepare for difficult conversations in the future. With comments often made by those nearest and dearest to the individual, having access to a trusted third party outside of their immediate network with whom they can discuss issues, is hugely valued at this time.

Where this type of support is available from a clinically trained professional, it may also signpost to a structured course of therapy or counselling when required, to ensure the individual’s physical condition is not detrimentally impacted by any emotional or mental health concerns.

Christine Husbands continued: “Most of the people who make insensitive remarks do so unwittingly but that doesn’t provide much solace for those affected. We can’t stop people making these comments, so it’s therefore important to provide the correct support for those who are on the receiving end. Organisations such as insurers, employers and membership groups who provide support for the physical aspects of cancer, must ensure that individuals are equally well supported with the emotional aspects of being diagnosed, living with, or surviving the disease.”

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