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Helping partners through cancer diagnosis

The benefits of relationship counselling in maintaining communication and intimacy between partners following a cancer diagnosis is being highlighting, as Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to an end and Movember begins.

“Being diagnosed with cancer can be life-changing,” said Dublin-based Relationships Ireland’s clinical director, Maura Leahy.

“One of the challenges a cancer patient may face is how to respond and deal with the effect of the diagnosis on the people closest to them. They may not know how to react and how to give you the support you need. Partners may stay silent due to the shock of the news or have difficulty responding to the anger or sadness that can often be felt, which can leave the patient with a sense of abandonment at a time when support is critical. Counselling can help improve communication between the patient and their partner at this difficult time, which will improve emotional and practical support on the road to recovery,” Ms Leahy said.

As well as difficulties with communication, a cancer diagnosis can also affect intimacy between partners. For example, treatment for prostate cancer can cause erectile dysfunction, while the side effects of chemotherapy and surgical procedures such as a mastectomy can leave patients feeling self-conscious about their appearance and desirability.

“Intimacy encompasses more than just sex and even where sexual performance is impaired it is important for a couple to be able to share intimate and caring moments. Good communication, knowledge and understanding between you and your partner are necessary to maintain that intimacy,” explained Ms Leahy. “The support of a qualified sex therapist can be of enormous benefit in addressing the sexual problems and concerns that arise from cancer treatment.”

Relationships Ireland also operates Teen-Between, a service dedicated to teenagers experiencing difficulties resulting from familial breakdown.

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