What to say to someone having surgery for cancer?

This article will center on showing what you can say to someone having surgery for cancer. It will give a detailed explanation of why you should say these things.

What to say to someone having surgery for cancer? 

Going through surgery for cancer is something that can feel overwhelming. You are not only dealing with the cancer diagnosis, but also with the vulnerabilities, and the fears that surgery can bring. 

It is extremely important for people that are close to being supportive and caring to someone going through that. And one can show through the words they use. Here is what you can say to someone that is going through surgery for cancer.

Reassure them that the surgery will serve the purpose of their treatment 

When a patient is going through cancer surgery, they can feel scared, but they also know that this surgery has a purpose in their treatment. Going through it may mean taking all the tumors out, which is a positive thing.

All of this can lead them to feel extremely ambivalent about the surgery. Tell them that even though you are not the one going through it, you understand it can be troubling, but that this is a procedure that is being done with the most positive goals.

Let them know you will be by their side 

Going to surgery is something people will have to go through alone. It can be terrifying getting inside that surgery room, with all those people in different clothes, and some of them you have never seen before.

Tell them you will be right by their side when they wake up, and if possible, that you will be in the waiting room just waiting to hear some news. This can give them some sense of comfort since they will know someone has their back.

Tell them you will help through their recovery 

Surgeries usually imply recovery time. A cancer surgery, in which the person is already debilitated because they have been going through treatment for quite some time, can imply a longer, or more intense recovery.

Tell your friend, or loved one, that you will be there for whatever their needs are during the recovery. But not only say it. Be there. Keep in mind that they can need help with multiple things. For example, a patient that goes through surgery due to cancer in their digestive system can sometimes come out of it with a colostomy bag.

Adjusting to this change in their life can be a challenge. So by offering help, know you may be offering to help them adjust to this. But not only that, you are offering them emotional support, and help in maintaining their house, cooking, or caring for their kids.

Remind them of all they have faced already 

Keeping in mind that this is a part of their treatment is one of the things that can help them the most. Reminding them that they have been going through this treatment for a while, can help them keep the focus on the purpose of this surgery, which can make the process easier.

Let them know it is okay to be pissed off 

Cancer sucks! No one will ever wish to go through that. So remind your friend that it is okay to be pissed off at times. This doesn’t mean they are not going through with the surgery or giving up treatment. It is just that you are giving them some space to vent about how this can be hard at times.

If they are religious, you can talk about their beliefs 

Some religious people can find great comfort in their beliefs. If your friend, or loved one, is religious, you can talk about how their religion deals with those hard moments.

Talk about their doctors 

Reminding them that they know and trust their doctors for a while is a key factor in letting them feel calmer about what is going on. A positive relationship with their team of doctors will certainly make it easier to go through surgery.

Tell them that you are there if they want to talk

Letting them know you are there to talk about whatever they want, even if they want to talk about something completely different from cancer and the surgery. 

It may be important for them to have people with whom they can share everything, and at some point, if they want to get their minds away from the surgery, you can be that person.

How can surgery emotionally impact a person with cancer? 

For a cancer patient having surgery can be an overwhelming moment. They may have gone through many exams, medications, and other forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Now, having the surgery may be what will take the tumor out of them.

In that way, this surgery can be a hopeful time, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t a scary time. Putting your body through surgery is always making you extremely vulnerable. You will be sleeping, as doctors will be doing the procedure, and that can make the person scared, especially if they don’t trust the doctor that is performing the surgery.

Aside from that, there is always an underlying fear that you won’t make it past the surgery. Some people may fear there will be complications, and the worst will happen. 

When dealing with surgery for cancer, there is another fear. Some may fear that, once the doctor starts the surgery, they will realize the tumor is worse than they thought, or some other tumors will be discovered. Leading the person to fear for their life even more.

Aside from that, surgery for cancer will often imply that the recovery will be long, and sometimes the surgery will even bring some life changes. For example, people who after cancer surgery will have to use a colostomy bag. In those cases, just the thought of the surgery can make the person desperate about how they will deal with the unknown.

Because of all that, people should be extremely supportive and care about what they will say to the person that is going through surgery for cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): What to say to someone having surgery for cancer?  

What I shouldn’t say to someone that has cancer? 

Dealing with cancer is not a simple thing. So you should be careful about what you will say to them. You should never tell them that everything will be okay. At the moment they are dealing with uncertainty and telling them it will be okay, is telling them they shouldn’t feel the way they feel at the moment.

You must also avoid talking about how other people you know have experienced cancer. This can be detrimental to them. If your previous friend died from cancer, it is something that can lead them to that thought. If your friend dealt with cancer more positively, they may feel like they should deal with cancer in a determined way.

Telling them you know exactly how they feel can also be extremely offensive. Because it means you are disregarding that each person experiences it differently. So don’t tell them you know how they feel.

Aside from that, you should never say to them that they are lucky because they have a less aggressive form of cancer. This may imply that they are not allowed to feel as they are feeling at the moment.

Is stage 4 cancer always terminal?

When most people hear someone close to them has stage 4 cancer, they can begin to fear. But it is important to know that Stage 4 cancer is not necessarily terminal, a person will not always die from stage 4 cancer. 

Rather than that, it means that the person is dealing with the most aggressive form of cancer. And because of that, they will have to submit themselves to the most aggressive forms of treatment. 

Having stage 4 cancer can also mean 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 is remission?

When talking about cancer, remission is understood as the moment in which the tests, physical exams, and scans show that the cancer is no longer present in your body. There are some doctors that call this period remission, but others will say it is the moment in which there is “no evidence of disease”, also known as NED.

But overall, 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.

It is extremely important to have in mind that, at this moment, the person is yet not cured. They will still go through follow-ups. But those will be although more spaced between each other, to guarantee there is no trace of cancer in the patient’s body. 

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 are the most curable forms of cancer?

The most curable form of cancer is prostate cancer, in which 99% of patients are expected to live longer after the diagnosis and treatment. The second most curable form of cancer is Thyroid cancer, which gets cured in 98% of the patients.

In third comes Testicular cancer, which gets cured in 97% of people, and Melanoma, which is a form of skin cancer, which gets cured in 94% of the cases.


This article showed what you should say to someone that is having surgery for cancer. It gave a detailed explanation of how people may feel when they listen to you.

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



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