Elizabeth Davis, MD, is a psychiatric oncologist in the Cancer Center’s Survivorship Program. She helps patients cope with both the emotional and physical side effects of cancer. Here, Dr. Davis shares tips for couples facing cancer together.
Conversations from the Heart
With Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s hard to escape the ads for perfume, candy and lingerie. If you have cancer, the smell of perfume or the thought of candy might make you nauseous, not to mention the lingerie.
It’s okay that romance might not be your top priority now. However, during treatment, relationships play a critical role in coping. This is a time when priorities often become clearer, and a sharpened focus on the important things in life can make couples stronger. It’s essential to honestly acknowledge the physical and emotional challenges of cancer and deal with them together. Some of these can include:
A word about intimacySexual dysfunction is a major concern patients raise in our discussions. It’s not often talked about openly – so patients and their partners might feel isolated in their experience – but changes in body image, mood, hormone levels and other cancer and treatment-related effects can cause drastic changes in a couple’s intimate relationship. The key is to talk about these issues with your partner and to seek help from your medical team. Don’t let embarrassment keep you from improving your quality of life.
At times during treatment it can feel like neither partner’s needs are being met. Every couple is different, but here are some steps that can help you and your partner cope during this difficult time:
Don’t be afraid to discuss any physical or emotional issues impacting your relationship with your care team, or contact the Mass General Cancer Center Survivorship Program for help.
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