Perfect Gifts for a Woman With Cancer

Gift Ideas for a Friend or Family Member with Cancer

Many people wonder what type of gift to give to a woman with cancer, whether it's meant to express hope during treatment or as a normal sentiment during the holidays. But what do you give to a person with cancer to show you truly care? Here are some tips and ideas to help you find that perfect gift.

Comfort is Key in Choosing a Gift

What are the best gifts to give to a woman you love who has cancer?.

When undergoing cancer treatment comfort is key! Treatments bring plastic chairs, uncomfortable examination tables, and cold clinics and hospital rooms. And that's just when your friend feels good enough to leave home.

Invest in the softest and coziest of socks, slippers, pajamas, or robes. Sheepskin and chenille items are comfortable and popular. Or, perhaps a warm and luxurious shawl or fleece blanket is the perfect way to wrap her in love and comfort. The fuzzier, the better!

Don't worry about what color or pattern she would prefer. Many women, in fact, would appreciate a color or pattern which reflect your personal tastes and preferences. In that way, she will have a little bit of you with her during those often long and lonely days of cancer treatment.     

Think Stress Relief When Buying a Gift

What type of gift may help to lower her stress levels?.

The jury is still out on whether or not stress reduction improves survival with cancer. Yet regardless of any survival advantage, we know that stress is uncomfortable and reduces anyone's quality of life.

Super soft aromatherapy pillows, eye masks, or teddy bears can offer a great deal of stress relief for a woman who is undergoing surgery or dealing with body aches and pains. The microbeads and natural oils within these products may enhance psychological and physical well-being.

Keep 'em Entertained

What type of gift could help keep your friend entertained?.

Activity levels will wane during active cancer treatment, ​and cancer fatigue is a given. Consider giving her uplifting books, movies, and music that will brighten her day in the comfort of her home. 

While an engrossing thriller, mystery, biography, or comedy might be just the ticket, at times a topic-specific may be what she really needs.  Cancer-related best sellers include:

  • "5 Lessons I Didn't Learn from Breast Cancer" by Shelley Lewis
  • "It's Not About the Hair: And Other Certainties of Life and Cancer" by Debra Jarvis
  • “Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul: Stories to Inspire, Support and Heal” by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Mary Olsen Kelly
  • “The Breast Cancer Survival Manual, Fifth Edition: A Step-by-Step Guide for Women with Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer” by John Link
  • “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy” by Geralyn Lucas

It's important to note that some women would rather get as far away from cancer as they can, and cancer-related books might not be the best choice. Think about what your friend would like. Books and movies can be an excellent way to escape the world of cancer for a few hours. If you don't know what books or movies your friend might like, think of sharing your own favorites. You may just help her find a new passion.

Warmth and Style are Great in a Gift

Gifts to help with her chemotherapy associated baldness may be welcomed.

Hair thinning or chemotherapy-related hair loss is common during cancer treatment and is especially troublesome as the weather turns cold! Even women who wish to go "Au natural" may change their mind quickly when the temperature drops.

Colorful hats and scarves may be just what she needs to put some spring back into her step. Pretty bandanas can also keep her covered up in style.

Food for the Soul

Food of some form may make a good gift.

When you don’t know what else to give, gift certificates to a favorite restaurant or movie theater can be fun. Be sure, however, to find a restaurant with a wide menu selection as taste buds often change during cancer treatment and “old favorites” can be subject to new allergies and sensitivities. Add to the gift certificate a selection of yummy teas, and you’ll be sure to please!

Sometimes going out to dinner during cancer treatment can be just too much of an effort, but there are many "make your own" and "pick up fresh" establishments available in many cities. A gift certificate to one of these might just do the trick, especially if your friend ordinarily likes to cook for her family but is too tired to do so. Unlike the home-delivered meals many women receive, these establishments will allow her to make her own choices and still have home cooked meals.

Pamper Her

Everyone needs a little pampering, especially those with cancer.

Pampering someone with cancer can be tricky. A gift certificate for a massage may sound like a good idea at first but, in reality, may be unbearable due to lymphedema surgeries, or painful points. 

Also take care with soaps, lotions, and spa gift sets—even most organic products may contain scents or irritants that sadly, she may not be able to tolerate right now. If this is a gift that you truly want to give, here are a few tips to make it work:

  • Call around. Ask boutiques and salons if they carry specialty products designed for cancer patients. 
  • Try products like moisturizing gloves that do not contain harmful ingredients. 
  • Give gift certificates. That way she can pick out what she really needs.
  • Make sure the gift is fully refundable.

Dazzle Her with *Bling*


Whether sick or well, jewelry is almost always a girl’s best friend.  Many stores, in person and online, sell Breast Cancer Awareness bracelets or necklaces with the proceeds going to cancer research. There are also bracelets and more for nearly any type of cancer if it is not breast cancer your friend is coping with. If pink is not her style, try a simple charm of “Hope”, “Joy”, “Courage”, or “Love”.

Personalize It


 Many times the best gift is not material at all. Design and print a homemade coupon for “one day of housecleaning on me”, or “a night-in, menu ala [YOUR NAME]”, or “grocery shopping for a week”.  Personalized gift certificates are endearing and always come in handy when the patient isn’t feeling 100 percent herself.

It's important, however, to make these gift certificates very specific. Simply writing an hour of "help" will usually result in the gift certificate going to waste. Think about ways in which your friend needs help. Perhaps it is two hours of window washing, help with planting the flower boxes in the front of the house, or cooking up your children's favorite dish. Specific "gift cards" are often welcomed by those who don't care to make one more decision.

Every Dollar Counts


Invest in cancer research in her honor. If your friend is one of those people who "has everything" or at least has everything you can afford, a better alternative may be recognizing her in supporting an organization that does not have everything it needs.

Nearly all cancer research organizations hospitals, and societies maintain charitable programs that allow you to make one-time gifts, monthly gifts, and legacy giving. Year-end financial reports will list the areas of research in which each institute invests and the percentage of each dollar directed to administrative costs (i.e., F&A).  Reap the tax benefits as well! 

If she has  a cancer other than breast cancer, take the time to learn about cancer organizations devoted to specific cancers. From ​LUNGevity for lung cancer survivors to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, many of these organizations could use the extra help and may also devote a greater percentage of their bottom line to supporting people with cancer and looking for cures.

Do It Yourself


 Make your own gift basket with a lot of little things that she may really need during and after treatment. Include magazines to make her laugh, journals to record her thoughts, organic lip balms and aloe to soothe chapped skin, a squishy stress ball to squeeze away the worries of the day, cozy socks, aromatic candles, plus crackers, tea, and/or a favorite food.

A gift such as this shows your friend that you took the time to thoughtfully think of her as a quick purchase could not. In addition, it can add some spice to her life that may have been reduced to managing appointment and coping with treatments.

Still Stuck on the Perfect Gift?

If you're still contemplating the perfect give, it may help to step into your loved one's shoes. What is it really like to live with cancer?

Or check out the  essentials list of what to pack for chemotherapy to learn about  the items your friend may find priceless as she faces treatment.

Finally, remember that support for people with cancer goes far behind gifts. Check out a few tips on how to best support your loved one with cancer.

The Worst Gifts for People with Cancer

At times you can get the best idea about the "best gift" by hearing about the worst gifts you can give someone with cancer. If you're still wondering what's best, check out the worst gifts you can give a breast cancer survivor.


National Cancer Institute. Support for People with Cancer. Updated 08/09/16.