Supporting A Partner With Breast Cancer

The cancer process is not a solo flight. Families and friends are affected by watching their loved one navigate through the disease. Your partner is often just as frightened and concerned about breast cancer as you are. They might fear losing you, suffer grief related to loss of normal daily activities, be upset by changes in your relationship, and may fear hurting you during sexual relations.

Studies have shown that partners coped better when involved in the decision-making process along the course of breast cancer treatment. Women who feel their partners are emotionally involved along the way have less emotional distress and better psychological adjustment. This results in better sexual relations.

Of course, your personal relationship prior to a diagnosis of breast cancer helps determine the quality of the interactions afterward. If there were problems in your relationship, those might become magnified during the stress of cancer recovery. If not involved in a relationship prior to breast cancer, you might feel challenged to explain changes in your body as a result of treatments, and what is needed from an intimate relationship.

Studies indicate that the first sexual experience following surgery and breast cancer treatments is the most important for healthy long-term sexual adjustment, feelings of femininity and attractiveness, less emotional distress for both partners, and improved relationship satisfaction. It is important for your partner to be aware of their initial reaction during the first sexual encounter. He/She should not deny their own feelings, but their overall emotion of caring should be expressed to you. His/Her role at this point is to provide security at this very vulnerable time.