A Croydon mother with incurable cancer has called for people to stop using “cancer clichés” which isolate and disempower those with the disease.

Cheryl Johnson, 51, was diagnosed with incurable neuroendocrine tumours (nets) in July 2017.

The mother of two, from Thornton Heath, explained how frustrating well meaning, but misguided, euphemisms can be.

“People say things like ‘you must fight’ and ‘you must be strong’. But what does it mean to be strong?” she said.

“This language only adds pressure that you must behave a certain way - a pressure to always be constantly positive and be strong.

“But I don't have a choice to act a certain way; I just have to get through this in whatever way I can.

“I just want to live through this.”

A new survey by cancer charity Macmillan of more than 2,000 people who have or have had cancer reveals the confusion and emotional turmoil caused by trying to find the ‘right’ words for someone diagnosed with cancer, focusing on the honest and divided views of patients themselves.

Nationally, it shows that the negative ‘cancer stricken’ and ‘cancer victim’ were as unpopular as some more positive descriptions such as ‘hero’ by people who have had a cancer diagnosis.

Respondents in London said words like these were inappropriate as they were disempowering (40 per cent), isolating (20 per cent) and put people under pressure to be positive (31 per cent).

Ed Tallis, Macmillan’s Head of Services for London, said: “These results show just how divisive and ‘Marmite’ simple words and descriptions can be.

“Cancer throws all kinds of things your way, and struggling to find the words, and the emotional turmoil caused when our friends and family don’t get it ‘right’ only makes lives feel even more upended.

“We know that there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ person with cancer, so it follows that people will prefer different ways of talking about it.

“We hear from Londoners every day who face this problem, that at its worst could even stop people getting the support they need.

“By drawing attention to this we want to encourage more people to talk about the words they prefer to hear, and stop the damage that can be caused to people’s wellbeing and relationships.

“Our support line, information services and Macmillan professionals are right there to make sure that everyone with cancer gets the support they need.”

“31 per cent of London cancer patients asked said they struggle to find the words to talk about the disease.

“Difficulties discussing death even mean those with a terminal diagnosis may not have their dying wishes fulfilled.”

The charity last month launched a new advertising campaign, ‘Whatever cancer throws your way, we’re right there with you,’ to highlight the chaos and turmoil of a cancer diagnosis and the support available.

The poll found that media articles and posts on social networks were the worst offenders for using language people with cancer deemed inappropriate, according to more than (51 per cent) and (52 per cent) of those surveyed in London.

Macmillan is almost entirely funded by support from the public and helps up to 6.5 million people every year to navigate the things that cancer may throw their way.