What can I say to a friend that is having radiotherapy?

This article will center on discussing what you can say to a friend that is going through radiotherapy. The article will also explain what radiotherapy is, and what are the emotional impacts of going through radiotherapy.

What can I say to a friend that is having radiotherapy? 

When someone is going through radiotherapy this often means they can be more vulnerable. Not only because of the cancer diagnosis, but because of the treatment routine. So here are some things you can say to your friends.

Let them know you are there

When a person is diagnosed with cancer so much of their life changes that they may lose track of who is there for them. So the first thing you can tell them is that you are there for them. Hearing that can be a huge relief.

Feeling that someone is there by their side even if they are not able to join you at pubs, or parties, can make them feel like not all is lost. And that is powerful to someone going through cancer.

Ask them when you can visit

Once the person is going through radiotherapy, they can begin to feel its side effects. They can become more tired, or have, for example, diarrhea. So you can point-blank ask them when you can visit. This shows them that you are making a point of this visit, but is also understanding of their boundaries.

And when the day of the visit comes, show them support, but also be open if they want to talk about other things rather than their treatment or cancer.

Let them know they are not alone 

Besides making yourself physically present, you can let them know, when it is not possible for you to be physically present, that they are not alone. Telling them you always keep them in your mind and prayers can show them that even in the hardest time there is always someone that is thinking of them, and wishing for their quick recovery.

Ask them if they need help 

Once they are in treatment, it is most likely that they can use some help. Maybe ask them if you can bring them some food, or if they would like to have you accompany them to the clinic to have the radiotherapy session.

All of this will show them, little by little, that you are there not only in speech, but you are making a point of being physically present.

Tell them you can imagine how bad it feels 

Sometimes, when a person is going through cancer and all the treatment, it can cause them to become angry. So your friend may have times in which all they want to do is scream. 

Telling them you can imagine how bad it must feel, and that you can imagine they will have times of anger, will allow them to open themselves up to you about this difficult emotion.

Ask them if they want to do something else

Doing radiotherapy means your friend will have to go every day for a period to the clinic. This means that at some point they can be tired of dealing with “cancer stuff”. So you can ask them if they want to do something else one day.

You can go shopping, to the movies, or even just spend a day at home watching a tv show they like. Anything that can take them out of this treatment routine. But be sure to not ask them that, or suggest it in a way as if you are disregarding what they are feeling. 

What is radiotherapy? 

Radiotherapy, also known as radiation treatment, is a cancer treatment that will use a high dose of radiation to kill cancer cells, and because of that, it will shrink the tumor. 

A patient will be prescribed by their doctor a determined amount of radiotherapy sessions, that is supposed to shrink the tumor to a point that it can be operable, or doesn’t lead to a lot of danger to the patient.

Once the number of sessions is determined, your doctor, along with the people that are specialists in radiotherapy, mark your body to the place the radiation will have to reach. And then you start the treatment. The radiotherapy sessions usually happen every day, until the end. And each application doesn’t last longer than 15 minutes.

What are the emotional impacts of going through radiotherapy? 

Commonly, doing radiotherapy will lead to many emotional impacts. The first one is related to the cancer diagnosis. Just knowing you have cancer can have a huge impact on you. It can cause all your plans and life’s expectations to change, and lead you to even think about your mortality.

As your doctor prescribed your radiotherapy, you may get mixed feelings. You can feel relieved because there is a way to treat your condition. But submitting yourself to a treatment that demands you to go every day to a clinic can be tiring, and even lead you to feel depressed.

Radiotherapy can also have side effects. They tend to be mostly related to the location where you get the radiation, but that can also take a toll on you, depending on where your cancer is located. It can sometimes make it harder for you to eat, or your skin can burn, affecting you emotionally.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): What can I say to a friend that is having radiotherapy? 

What I shouldn’t say to someone with cancer?

When someone is dealing with cancer, there are some things one should never say. Don’t ever tell them that everything will be okay, they are dealing with a lot of uncertainty, and telling them it will be okay, is telling them they shouldn’t feel the way they feel at the moment.

Talking about how other people you know have experienced cancer is always something that can be detrimental to them. If your previous friend died from cancer, it is something that can lead them to that thought. Or they may feel like they should deal with cancer in a determined way.

Telling them you know exactly how they feel can also be offensive. Even if you have gone through cancer before, you should know each person will experience it differently. So don’t tell them you know how they feel.

You should also never say that they are lucky because they have a less aggressive form of cancer, which can make them feel as if they are not allowed to suffer. Or even that they don’t look sick, because even though it may not show in their appearance, they may be feeling a lot has changed.

Is stage 4 cancer the same as terminal cancer? 

Stage 4 cancer is not necessarily terminal, a person will not always die from stage 4 cancer. But they will be dealing with the most aggressive form of cancer. And because of that, it will ask the person to submit themselves to the most aggressive forms of treatment. 

When a person has stage 4 cancer, it means that it may have metastasized, which means it may have spread to other areas of the body.

Terminal cancer is usually called the one in which there is no possibility of remission, and the person will live with cancer for the rest of their lives, however long that may be. But other people will call terminal cancer the end stage of cancer.

What are the most common types of cancer?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2020 cancer was the leading cause of death in the world 2020. According to the Organization, breast cancer was the most common type of cancer diagnosed, with 2,26 million cases.

After them, it was diagnosed with 2,21 million cases of lung cancer, and 1,93 million cases of colon and rectum. Followed by 1,41 million cases of prostate cancer, and 1,20 million cases of skin (nom-melanoma) cancer.

As for the most common causes of death, among cancer patients, WHO said that in 2020 1,80 million people died of lung cancer. While 916 thousand died of colon and rectum cancer, and 830 thousand died of liver cancer.

Aside from that, 769 thousand people died of stomach cancer, and 685 thousand died of breast cancer.

What is remission?

When talking about cancer, remission is that moment in which the tests, physical exams, and scans show that the cancer is gone. Although some doctors may call this period remission, others will say it is the moment in which there is “no evidence of disease”, also known as NED.

A person will be considered in remission when the size of their tumor doesn’t grow back, or if it stays on the same size a month after the treatment is done.

But it is important to keep in mind that at this moment, the person is not cured. They will still do follow-ups, although they are more spaced between each other, to guarantee there is no trace of cancer in the patient’s body. 

A person will only be considered cured after they have spent 5 years in remission, with no track of tumor in their body. That is why keeping to these follow-ups is important. If there is ever a new trace of cancer, you should discover it as soon as possible.

What are ways my doctor will be able to say that radiotherapy is working?

Your doctor will most likely do some exams with you after you are done with your radiation process. Once your radiotherapy cycle is done, your doctor will most likely ask you to submit through scans.

That can be a way for them to see if the tumor has shrunk, or has gone away. And if you had a positive outcome from the radiotherapy, it may be that your doctor will submit you to periodic scans to keep track of your tumor.

But you should always keep in mind, in the same way with all cancer treatments, that each person will react differently. Some people may show an improvement with radiotherapy right away, others may take some time, even months. And unfortunately for others, it may not work at all, and the doctor will need to consider other forms of treatment.


This article explained what you should say to a friend that is going through radiotherapy. Aside from that, it explained what radiotherapy is, and what are the emotional impacts of going through radiotherapy.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.