Our friendship and cancer campaign

3 in 4 young people with cancer we surveyed said their friendships were affected by cancer. Find out how young people’s friendships can change after diagnosis and how to be a good mate to someone facing cancer.

Policy and campaigns
Friendship and cancer logo

When you’re going through a tough time, friendships can make all the difference. But if you have to go through cancer when you’re young, your friendships can start to change.

3 in 4 young people we surveyed said that their friendships were affected by cancer.

On top of that:

  • Over half (55%) said their friends didn’t contact them as much anymore.
  • And over a third (40%) found that some of their friends stopped contacting them completely.


Why do friendships change during cancer?

Of the young people we surveyed:

  • Nearly half (49%) felt it was because their friends felt awkward about their cancer and didn’t know how to react or what to say
  • Over a third (35%) felt it was because there’s a stigma or taboo around having cancer as a young person
  • And over a third (37%) felt it was because their friends didn’t think that they could include them in their social plans

Some other reasons might include people not wanting to have difficult conversations, or not wanting to intrude when they know their friend is facing something really tough.

These are all understandable reactions. But with some honest conversations, some of these barriers can be overcome and friends can stay connected.

How do Teenage Cancer Trust help support friendships during cancer?

Teenage Cancer Trust supports young people with cancer across the UK, helping them navigate existing friendships and find new ones during cancer treatment.

We do that through specialist hospital units that feel like home, and nursing and support staff that treat them as a young person first and a cancer patient second. They’re treated with people their own age, rather than a child or an older adult. And their treatment is tailored around everything else going on in their lives, like school, exams, work, and of course, their friendships.

Even if they can’t get together in person, we help young people share their fears, worries and successes with each other, through our new online community, Connect, and our ongoing personalised support from Youth Support Coordinators that lasts way beyond treatment.

Sure, friendship won’t fix everything about cancer. But when life has been turned upside down, it’s more important than ever to have someone around who gets it.

Has your friend been told they have cancer? Check out our information on how you might be feeling and how you can help. And read top tips on how to support a friend through cancer from the young people who’ve gone through it.