What is the adjective for a person that has cancer? For example, cancerous individual, cancerous child, or something else?

  • 4
    A cancered individual is someone affected by cancerous growth.
    – MorganFR
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 12:07
  • 7
    "A cancer patient" is a widely-used phrase. I don't recall any adjective used before "individual" to indicate his or her cancer patient status. Commented May 24, 2016 at 12:16
  • 2
    cancer stricken
    – Khan
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 12:20
  • 7
    We don't say cancered. We usually use multiple words rather than any single adjective.
    – user230
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 12:42
  • 7
    For those being overly PC, how about "carcinogenically challenged"? Commented May 24, 2016 at 14:36

7 Answers 7


The adjective cancerous usually modifies cells, growth, tumor, etc.

It is better to use a prepositional phrase with cancer which post-modifies the noun.

A person (diagnosed) with cancer

Or you could use cancer patient which means:

a person who is receiving medical treatment for a malignant growth or tumour: 'an increase in the number of cancer patients'

[Collins Online Dictionary]

  • 5
    Indeed, if you called a person cancerous, they'd probably be a little insulted regardless of their medical condition. (They'd probably be more forgiving to someone learning the language, but still...)
    – corsiKa
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 17:16
  • 4
    The important word is diagnosed, and the most common idiom IMO: diagnosed with cancer.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 2:00

We never use the adjective cancerous to refer to a person suffering from cancer. If you do so, you may cause people great offense as well as emotional pain.

If you wish to refer to people who have cancer, you can refer to them as cancer patients, as noted in another answer here. You can also refer to people with cancer as cancer sufferers or people with cancer.

Usage note:

One reason that you might offend them is because "cancerous person" is often used metaphorically to describe a person regularly causing negative effects to others around them i.e. that person is a metaphorical cancer.

  • 3
    Also it is the growth itself that is cancerous. Calling the patient cancerous implies that they are a cancer rather than they have a cancerous growth. Commented May 25, 2016 at 12:26
  • +1. The phrase cancer survivor is also quite common, though it also includes people who no longer have cancer (and, in general, has many competing definitions).
    – ruakh
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 1:12

In English it is common to use the term "cancer patient" as stated already. The following is not a real answer, as much as a suggestion: in Greek, someone suffering from cancer is called carcinopathés (noun, a person suffering from cancer). I think the addition of a term such as carcinopath or canceropath in the English vocabulary wouldn't go amiss.


Single words (if hyphenated counts as single word) would be "cancer-ridden" or "cancer-stricken".

  • -Laden, -victim, -patient...
    – The Nate
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 23:41
  • "Cancer-ridden" goes beyond suggesting that they are a cancer patient, it implies a pretty bad case.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 3:11
  • 1
    And, to add to @nnnnnn's comment, "cancer-ridden" has a negative connotation that may well cause offence. Commented May 25, 2016 at 13:12

There is no single word adjective you can come up with that won't range from being offensive, to extremely offensive and whose use won't mark you as a weirdo with no social sense.

Nevertheless, if my life somehow depended on coming up with one, I would make my answer "becancered", taking advantage of the "be-" morphological formation to denote "afflicted with", "surrounded with", "loaded with", "stricken" and such.

Somehow it has a small softening effect, placing a separation between the subject and the disease. There is a certain slight nuance in "cancered" in that to be "cancered" is in some sense, to be identified as being one with the cancer, to be inseparable from it, or the degradation of health which the progression of cancer causes. The "be-" prefix re-frames the cancer as some external affliction which in some metaphoric sense drapes the individual and can be shed, or something that the subject has (like a "bespectacled" person is someone who is wearing glasses, and something "bejeweled" is covered with jewels).

This possibly may have to do with "be + word + ed" plausibly deriving from a noun sense of word. In "becancered", "cancer" refers to the noun "cancer", and not to cancer as a verb, unlike in "cancered", where the derivation is ambiguous; there is a verb sense which means "degraded by the progressive action of cancer" and not simply "having cancer".


Most sources I can find online tell me "cancerous" is grammatically correct for both a growth and a person, as meaning "relating to or affected with cancer".

Though if I may, I find this expression very repulsive. It might be because I played online games too much, but I think that referring to a "patient with cancer" or a "cancer patient" sounds way better than a "cancerous/cancered(?) patient".

  • 10
    When used to describe a person, cancerous is (in my experience) a metaphorical description of the negative effect they have on the people around them. I've never heard it used to describe a cancer patient.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 13:30
  • 1
    Quite a few dictionaries cite cancerous as meaning "relating to or affected with cancer". In this case, it makes grammatical sense to describe a cancer patient as cancerous. Though I agree with you on the fact that I've never, nor will I ever hear someone talk about a cancerous patient in a serious talk. It's more grammatically correct than "okay to use" indeed, editing.
    – Azami
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 13:33
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    The OP is not asking for a grammatically correct phrase but for an appropriate expression. "Canceriferous Human" and cancer carrying individual are grammatically correct, but not used–and cancerous person does not refer to a person who has the disease cancer. Commented May 24, 2016 at 14:57

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