A guide for spouses and partners of men with a prostate cancer diagnosis
While prostate cancer is only found in men, the aftershock of the prostate cancer diagnosis can be far reaching for all those around him. If you have a spouse, partner or loved one who has prostate cancer, you may be overwhelmed and wondering how to best support and care for him.
It is completely normal for both the patient and his loved ones to experience feelings of anxiety, fear and frustration. Overcoming your fears through education and learning about your partner’s treatment options can help alleviate some of the worry that comes with a prostate cancer diagnosis.
Supporting your partner through the emotional roller coaster of a cancer diagnosis is incredibly important. The journal of Clinical Medicine: Oncology published a review of studies that found men with prostate cancer experience increased feelings of anxiety or depression. Cancer patients who experience anxiety or depression may be less compliant with their treatment, potentially reducing the treatment’s effectiveness. Emotional worries related to a man’s diagnosis are more likely to negatively affect their relationships.
Prostate cancer and communication
Communication is the key element of supporting your loved one through his prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment. Each individual handles stress differently. You need to talk to your partner about how you can best support him.
When discussing difficult topics with your partner, engage in active listening, be calm and open. Don’t assume anything, or project your thoughts or feelings onto your partner. Depending on how your loved one handles stress, he may want space. Or he may want you or others in his support network to remain close. Ask what he wants and needs.
Your partner may find it helpful to discuss his prostate cancer battle with others who also have a prostate cancer diagnosis or with those who have lived with it. Encourage your partner to attend a prostate cancer support group.
Discussing the prostate cancer diagnosis with other family members or friends may be difficult for your partner. He may want your help telling parents, friends and children about his disease. Ask your partner how he wants to handle informing his extended support system and offer to help.
Be there for your partner
Talk to your partner about going with him to his medical appointments. By joining him at his doctor appointments you can not only benefit from learning more about his prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment options, you can also be an advocate for his care. Come prepared with questions for his doctor and take thorough notes. Encourage your partner to ask his own questions, as well.
Of course you and your partner want the most effective treatment with the fewest side effects.
CyberKnife treatment could well be exactly what he needs.
Physical intimacy after a prostate cancer diagnosis
Prostate cancer, more so than other forms of cancer, affects the patient’s spouse or partner directly. The side effects of prostate cancer treatments are often a major consideration, some patients even avoid treatment due to potential side effects. These vary depending on the type of treatment.
The range of side effects include erectile dysfunction (ED), lower sex drive and urinary incontinence. If you’re attending medical appointments with your partner, ask his medical provider about potential treatment side effects.
During and after prostate cancer treatments, your partner or spouse may be uncomfortable with his own body. He may be embarrassed due to treatment side effects or experience hormonal mood swings that can lower his sex drive.
It is not uncommon for some women whose spouse has prostate cancer to feel unattractive or rejected by the changes in their sex lives. It’s crucial to remember that the change in your sex life is not your fault or the fault of your partner. While your partner or spouse is undergoing prostate cancer treatment it is important to maintain intimacy. Some couples foster intimacy through cuddling or massaging each other.
If your partner is experiencing harmful sexual side effects, this can further impact his emotional well-being. Many men relate the ability to get and maintain an erection with being “manly.” Losing the ability to get an erection can cause those affected to question their identity. Depending on which treatment your partner selected to treat his cancer, he may have options to treat his ED.
Take care of yourself
While caring for a loved one, it is easy to focus all of your attention and energy on his needs. However, if you become emotional drained, your health and well-being may be negatively impacted and your ability to provide care will be compromised.
Maintaining your own health and emotional fortitude will allow you to provide the support your partner needs. Making sure you get enough sleep, exercise and eat well will help you stay healthy. To maintain your emotional well-being, turn to friends and family in your support system. Make time for hobbies and other enjoyable activities.
A prostate cancer diagnosis affects you and your partner. So be aware of the emotional toll your partner’s cancer is having on you.