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Talking (or Not) About Your Cancer

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To the Editor:

Re “It’s Not Easy to Tell People You Have Cancer,” by Daniela J. Lamas (Opinion guest essay, March 27):

As a cancer survivor myself, I understand the reluctance of Catherine, Princess of Wales, to speak out about her own diagnosis. However, she has the unique opportunity to alert and educate many people regarding symptoms and treatments. And by speaking calmly and frankly, she has the additional opportunity to help remove the fear and stigma of a cancer diagnosis.

Of course, she has no obligation to do this, but perhaps as time passes and she is no longer in the first stages of shock, she will be able to do a truly selfless thing and help educate people about cancer.

Barbara Mutterperl
New York

To the Editor:

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 12 years old and she was 33. In the 1960s breast cancer was often fatal, and cancer was not discussed publicly. As the oldest child, I think I was told too much, not too little. Counseling would have been very helpful.

I am 75 and had early stage breast cancer four years ago. I was told my treatment would be over 90 percent successful; sharing that information normalized the situation and helped me get through the treatment. I am cancer free.

Some types of cancer have fairly good outcomes, while other types are almost always fatal. The more treatable a cancer is, the more comfortable a patient feels about telling friends about their diagnosis. And sharing information with children under 18 has to be done very carefully.

Catherine, Princess of Wales, has very young children. She and her husband will be careful about how much information to give them, hoping to be honest but not scare them unnecessarily. Expecting her to reveal her diagnosis in more detail would be inappropriate at this point.

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