top of page

10 Best Ways How To Talk To Cancer And Rare Diseases Patients.

Poor communication by healthcare professionals leads to life-threatening complications in patients. Knowing how to talk is important when supporting cancer or rare disease patients.

Even so, communication is the single most important parameter.

This defines the nature of a relationship.

It can be a doctor-patient relationship, or between the patient and the caregiver. You wouldn't believe it when I say that even today. In most parts of the world, people do not know how to talk to a patient.

Let me tell it otherwise too. Maybe, patients can be extra sensitive to words. That can make them get upset or feel hurt easily.

Trust me, when I say this, it's not easy to be a caregiver either! The rare disease or cancer patient's journey is a roller coaster ride.

In this blog post, we will talk about

  1. 10 different ways to talk to a patient.

  2. 3 ways how to not talk to a patient.

  3. Conclusion.

Here are 10 different ways to talk or initiate a conversation.

1) I’m here for you.

This can instill a lot of positivity in a patient. Most often patients don't ask for help.

I agree, some might not hesitate to ask.

However, many feel afraid or hesitant to ask for help.

This happens when simple tasks like waking up and getting out of bed become challenging too.

I believe most are blessed with caretakers who understand their needs and cater to them. However, that's not the case with everyone.

So, stepping down a little and reminding the patient that you're available for them is the best way.

It also increases trust and makes them feel heard.

Here is an article that says a patient's health is affected by how the doctors communicate.

Sometimes doctors or even caregivers don't communicate properly. They are indirectly affecting the patient's mental health.

This article highlights the problems faced by patients due to doctors' avoidance behavior.

Letting the patient know that you are there for them boosts their mental health.

2) You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Prayers can move mountains!

Prayers are a way to connect to our higher self. Sending the patient messages like, "I'm praying for you" can make them feel optimistic. They feel cared about.

It makes them believe that you are thinking of them and they are not alone.

Feeling accompanied can go a long way in healing.

Remember, it's not always the medicine.

It's prayers too.

Prayers can help where science cannot.

3) Let me help you with…

Not every time one needs to ask. Primary caretakers can initiate the conversation by understanding what the patient needs.

Doesn't have to be big. It can be simple tasks.

Let me help you with your medicines.

Let me help you order your groceries.

Let me help you book a cab to the hospital.

You can always start a conversation like this.

This article says good doctor-patient communication can help regulate patients' emotions.

It can also facilitate comprehension of medical information. To add on, it allows for better identification of patients' needs and expectations.

Knowing the patient's needs exactly can help the doctor treat them better!

4) Tell a Joke.

Why should it always be serious talks and discussions?

What is life without some random fun?

Yes, you don't need to think about how to start a conversation.

You can just tell a random joke.

A simple joke can lighten the mood and also remind the patients that they are not devoid of laughter.

Laughter is the best medicine.

Start the conversation by saying, "You know what? Listen to this funny thing!"

"I bet you can't hold your laughter after listening to this!"

Now, pat yourself on your back. You just made someone smile.

5) There are so many things to love about you.

See the brighter side of people. If you are the primary caretaker, remind the patients about their best qualities.

Personality, Kindness, Empathy, and Communication Skills cannot be gone with an illness.

The best things in life are often unseen.

Remind the patients that they have huge hearts. That there is always a place for love.

Remind the patients that they are brave! Remind them of incidents from their life where they were brave.

Remind them that they are strong.

Adding a bit of positivity is always beneficial.

Remind them that disease or illness cannot take away their qualities.

That can go a long way.

6) Start a Prayer Chain.

The benefits of prayer are already discussed above.

But, with the help of social media, we can always start a prayer chain.

Form a community of people who are interested in praying.

Keep the chain going.

Prayers add up and count. They need not change our destiny but can help us become stronger mentally.

7) We can still do our favourite things

Remember the times when you spent time together?

Maybe, read a book together.

Sing a song together.

Go back to the good old days of playing together. Play board games together.

Being together helps you stay connected.

Finding a company in times of despair is a blessing.

Laugh together.

Maybe, listen to your favourite song!

Watch a movie together.

Together we definitely can!

Remember, without mental and emotional support, fighting an illness can become more challenging.

8) Did you see the latest episode?

Stop talking about health issues always. There are so many things in the world to talk about.

Start with the news, current affairs, the latest movies, web series, etc.

The conversation need not be medicine-centric always.

This not only presents diversified ideas but also encourages the patient to speak.

Remember to let the patient speak.

9) You are healing beautifully!

Yes, sometimes patients look for reassurance.

Not that they don't believe in themselves.

But, repeating these can instill courage.

So make sure you say this.

Say this, even if the patient is not improving clinically.

That's still fine.

This article can tell you how doctors can improve their communication skills.

Effective communication can help build trust with the patient.

It can especially help in treating long-term treatment patients.

If you're a doctor reading this article, make sure to check this article.

10) I love you!

This goes without saying.

This is the most powerful statement that you can make.

You don't want reasons to tell this.

Love is the most powerful feeling. It's a higher-level emotion.

It can tremendously help in recovery.

Above all, love need not be earned.

Love should be free.

How can you help patients better?

  • Go to chemotherapy/hospital with them.

  • Respect their privacy, if they are unwilling to share everything.

  • Let them have their own space. Respect their boundaries.

  • Send Gifts or flowers. You need not wait for an occasion to celebrate life today.

What can you avoid saying?

It's advised that you stop justifying an illness. That can sometimes make the patient feel confused. So, kindly avoid speaking this way.

  • “Everything happens for a reason. You will find out your reason sooner".

  • “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. See, how strong you are!”

  • “That Almighty has a plan for you! You just have to wait”.

  • "This is the worst challenge of your life".


Agree or disagree, we all have already become patients at least once in our lifetime.

Be it a common cold or the flu, we have been there. All we need is a little love and compassion.

Fighting cancer, a rare disease, or a chronic illness demands our patience.

It's not all in our heads always.

So when we come across a patient next time, remember to be kind.

Kindness pays dividends that no man can measure!

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends and family.

If you know someone living with a chronic illness or a rare disease, please check out

Know a child living with an invisible illness? Then you should read this blog post.


Shyamala :)

The author is a rare disease advocate, a dentist by profession and a blogger at heart.

She also has a hand in psychology. She's aiming to bring about a change in the rare diseases community, one blog post at a time.

Don't forget to share this article with someone you love! :)

Related Links


bottom of page