Monday 12 September, 2022

Cancerpedia – Words that Describe the Cancer Experience

Going through cancer comes with many new terms already – from types of cancer to treatment to the lingo your doctor or healthcare team uses. It’s normal to feel lost. 

Life with cancer brings you experiences that are hard to put to words outside of the scientific and medical terms. How can you describe the experience of your friends leaving you because they don’t know how to interact with you now that you have cancer? What about the constant fatigue? 

So, we’ve put together a list of life-with-cancer-specific terms that our community has come up with that help put words to feelings and experiences during and after cancer. 

Cancer ghosting

When friends, family, and loved ones become distant or cut contact due to your cancer diagnosis.

Cancer hangover

When everything you’ve been through catches up with you. A cancer hangover is more common after treatment or in a later state of dealing with cancer but can also be experienced during. 


A milestone defined by you. It can be the day you finish treatment, the day you first get diagnosed, or any other important date that occurs during your cancer experience.


Having to explain your cancer diagnosis over and over again.

Chemo brain

The fogginess you experience during or after chemotherapy treatment, often making it hard to concentrate or remember things. Some get a sensation of not being able to keep up as easily as before treatment. 


The feeling of stress or worry in the period before a medical test, during the test, and while waiting for test results. 

Cancer bubble

When it feels like your whole life revolves around you or your loved one’s cancer diagnosis.

Cancer treatigue

Cancer treatment fatigue – the feeling of exhaustion, during or following cancer treatment. 

Post-surgery mourning

A period of saying goodbye and grieving  of the loss of a body part due to cancer.

Cancer daze

The days when life feels like a blur due to your, or a loved one’s, cancer diagnosis.


The way you or others view yourself because of your experience with cancer.

Second hand cancer hangover

When your loved one has experienced cancer and it all catches up with you. A second hand cancer hangover is more common after treatment or in a later state of dealing with cancer, like when your loved one completes cancer treatment and you experience a cancer hangover as you return to “normal” life.  

Post-traumatic growth

A positive psychological change experienced when you’re able to find meaning from life experiences that are highly challenging, highly stressful, or traumatic.

Cancer thriver

People who are living life with or after cancer and are flourishing or have experienced post-traumatic growth. 

Cancer community

A place where people understand what cancer is like and can relate to your experience.


A surprise brought on because of cancer. For example, someone coming back into your life because they heard that you have cancer.

Can you relate to any of these words? You’re not alone. Join the War On Cancer community to share your experiences with people who know what cancer is like.

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