What to Say to Your Partner Who Has Prostate Cancer

If you discover that your spouse has prostate cancer the two of you likely have lots of questions regarding what’s to come. There’s plenty to talk about. But what should you talk about and what should you say when you battle the disease?

When you are deciding on your words, be sure to focus your attention on what you can do to be the “together” part of this. Your partner will greatly benefit from having you at his side. Be present at meetings with him, and be there for him.

“If the man has a partner, I always encourage that partner to be there,” says the urologist Jesse Mills, MD director of UCLA’s Men’s Clinic at UCLA in Los Angeles. “This is a disease that couples suffer together.”

The Urologist Clayton Lau, MD, is in agreement.

“Say to your partner that you want to be involved, go to appointments, ask questions,” says Lau head of the prostate cancer clinic located at City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, CA. “A lot of men diagnosed with prostate cancer just turn their brains off and worry, so it’s very important for the partner or spouse to process information and give emotional support.”

Stay Positive for Your Partner

As scary as the word “cancer” is however, prostate cancer has an extremely high rate of cure particularly when it’s discovered early. In fact, more than all men suffering from prostate cancer who hasn’t spread to other organs of the body have at least five years after diagnosis as per the American Cancer Society.

If your friend is scared If he is feeling overwhelmed, remind him of this.

“Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from the disease, and you need to let him know that,” Lau declares. “He wants to know that it’s not all doom and gloom.”

When Prostate Cancer Doesn’t Need Treatment

Most of the time, prostate cancer develops slow and is not any immediate threat. In these instances doctors usually recommend something referred to as active surveillance. (You may also hear it described as “watchful waiting.”) Regular check-ups are required to make sure that the cancer hasn’t spread.

The benefit is that you do not have the adverse negative effects of the procedure and radiation. But, it could create anxiety if you are worried that things could change for the worse. What are you going to say?

“Remind your spouse or partner that the doctors are on top of things and that you’re being regularly checked,” Lau adds.

If you’re the one worried about what cancer could cause if it is not treated, inform your partner about what you think. It is then his choice to avoid treatment, at the very least for the moment in the event that he and your doctor believe that an active monitoring approach is the best option.

“You have to be able to give your partner that space,” Mills states.

Find Resources

If both you and your loved ones had never been through cancer before, this is a new world to explore. You’ll require help in finding ways to discuss the issue.

“There are a lot of support groups for couples going through therapy,” Mills mentions. “They’re run through cancer centers, hospitals, churches,” and various other organizations. Request your partner’s cancer care team to recommend you to local organizations. Check out through the American Cancer Society’s services and programs as well. Social workers and psychologists can assist.

Facing the Side Effects of Treatment

The treatment for prostate cancer may result in two significant and lasting adverse consequences: urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Both of these can be very depressing. Radiation can also affect the bladder as well as the capacity to get an erection.

Inform your spouse that these side effects are typically temporary and assure him that you’ll be there for him as you wait for the situation to improve.

If your spouse doesn’t have the full control of the bladder -it’s a side effect that could be a long time to get rid of and can deter him from wanting to return to the activities you enjoyed prior to treatment, or restrict the desire to go out on his own.

“Be understanding and don’t minimize his feelings,” Mills advises. “But encourage him to be somewhat adventurous and realize that the new normal means he’s going to have to make more stops to go to the restroom.”

Talking With Your Partner About Sex

One of the most difficult aspects of treatment is its effect on the ability of your partner to have an intimate sex. It is possible that you won’t be able to enjoy sexual sex the way you used to, or at least for a time. Discuss it early.

“Have an open conversation as a couple,” Lau suggests. “Talk about the importance sexual intimacy is for both of you as it is often more important to the spouse or partner of one over the other. Remember that he would like to be loved and perceived in a romantic light.”

Mills states that the process of recovery can be as long as one year. Your partner should be assured that he’s wanted throughout the time.

“Tell him you want to be intimate with him even if you can’t be intimate in the way you used to be,” Mills states.

Do not tell your spouse that you’re no longer concerned about his inability of getting an erection.

“Even if you’re saying it from a position of support, that’s exactly the wrong thing to say, because being able to have an erection is fundamental to being a male,” Mills states. “Instead simply say that you understand that you’re unable to have an erection at the moment but I will always want to be with you. It’s crucial for your partner to not declare that it’s okay to be ineffective. Instead, say , I would like you to feel that you’re doing everything in your power in order to regain the ability to have an erection.”

However, it could be something you’re habitually doing instead of discussing it. If you’re having trouble beginning conversations, Lau advises speaking with an sex therapist who will help you deal with the changes to your sexuality. The health team of your partner is likely to be able to offer an appropriate recommendation.

If It’s Advanced Prostate Cancer

In some cases, the prostate cancer can be aggressive and difficult to treat. It could be spread to other parts in the body. The treatment of cancer requires hormone therapy that stops your body’s production of testosterone. It can cause serious side negative effects. Your partner is likely to suffer these issues:

  • The mood swings and emotional changes
  • Inattention loss in sexual activity
  • Gain in weight
  • A lack of motivation to eat healthy exercise, sleeping, or eating

“It can be devastating,” Mills states. “Quality of life takes a huge hit.”

Your partner could become irritable angry, depressed, or even withdrawn at times, as an consequence of treatment, or due to the fact that he’s confronting the realities of a serious illness. Provide him with the space he’s seeking however, you should also be encouraging, Mills says. Inspire him to take part in exercise and to eat a balanced diet.

“Say, ‘I’m in this with you,'” Mills suggests. “Say, ‘Let’s go for a walk’ or ‘Let’s skip the fast food and have a nice piece of salmon and some brown rice and some steamed vegetables.’ Be part of that solution.”

Helping Your Partner at the End

What happens if the treatment options are exhausted and your cancer is in its last stage? It’s still possible to fight it.

“At that point, it’s important just to be there and reassure your partner that he is loved,” Lau states. “Show affection, show your presence, both your physical and emotional presence.”

It is also possible to support the decision of his doctor about hospice treatment in the place he wishes to spend the rest of his time and ensure that discomfort is managed and that his final medical wishes are respected. (These should be included in the prior wishes.)

The last thing you want to do is to be untruthful about the state of affairs. “You can’t simply tell them that things are magically going to get better,” Lau claims.

Inform your partner that you’ll be there with you no matter what, and for you to step back when it’s their the time to go, Mills says.

“I think sometimes people just need to hear that,” Mills states. “They need to hear from people they love that there’s no more that they need to do and that that’s OK, that death is not a failure but a condition of life.”