Telling a new partner you have cancer

If you've met someone you like, you might wonder if there's a "right time" to tell them about your cancer. It's about establishing a level of trust. It will take time to learn about each other and feel comfortable in each other's company. The more you get to know this person, the easier it will be to relax with them and open up about your cancer.

When is the right time?

Deciding who to tell about having cancer, and when, is one area where you can still have some control over your life. Opening up about having cancer is bound to be tough. Don’t feel you have to rush into it.

There really is no ‘right time’. It’s about using your intuition and doing what you feel comfortable with. If you’re a naturally forthcoming person, you might feel confident doing this early on. There’s nothing wrong with being open from the get-go. Also, it might be something that feels natural to bring up straight away – especially if there are visible effects of treatment like hair loss, or they are likely to have heard through the grapevine.

I don't think there is ever a 'right time' to tell somebody about your cancer. This is a completely personal choice and everyone is different. It can also depend on how long it is since you were first diagnosed, whether you’re having treatment or what your prognosis may be.


It might be more complicated. Your prognosis might be terminal, or you might have had life-changing side effects such as scarring, a limb amputation or losing the ability to have children. Talking about your cancer might mean broaching this big issues which, understandably, you might not be ready to do.

A good benchmark is to put yourself in their shoes. If the positions were reversed, when would you like to be told?

Handling their reaction

The key is knowing that you can handle their response, whatever that might be. Even if your new partner reacts badly, it’s worth remembering that there is support available, for you and as a couple. It may help them to handle things better if they can understand your situation, and has time to get used to it. Before addressing the issue, you might also want to have a close friend or family member on hand that you can turn to should you need their support.

Ultimately, there’s no way of knowing how this person might react. At the same time, if they really care then they will recognise that cancer is just one aspect of your life right now. Even if it takes a while for them to come to terms with the situation, they won’t lose sight of the reasons why you were attracted to each other in the first place, and nor should you.

For your boyfriend or girlfriend

This will no doubt be a big shock for them and it’s likely they’ll need a bit of time to process what’s going on. You might want to direct them to our page for partners which should help them come to terms with their feelings, understand a bit more about what it might be like for you, and get some good ideas about positive steps they can take.

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