Intimate relationships as important to cancer care as medical interventions

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The importance of cancer patients’ intimate relationships—partners, husbands, wives, or close family—is increasingly recognized as a significant part of cancer care. Psychologist Sharon L. Manne, associate director for population science at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, studies the effects of a cancer diagnosis on relationships, especially couples.

Often, couples in a longstanding relationship may evolve into a complacency in which they feel they know each other. As a result, they have difficulty talking with one another about their concerns, such as sexual side effects and financial burdens.

Manne’s recent study on women with early stage breast cancer used focus groups facilitated by trained leaders. Some groups focused on a single issue, such as fear of disease recurrence, at each meeting.

Other groups focused on couples’ communication and stress management skills. Data on which strategy was more helped most is still being analyzed. She is also conducting an ongoing study on the effects of intimacy-enhancing therapy for patients with prostate cancer.

Manne’s goal is to help patients and their families maintain normalcy in their relationships, and not let their cancer take over their lives.

Intimate relationships are as important to cancer care as medical interventions
The importance of cancer patients’ intimate relationships is increasingly recognized as a significant part of cancer care.
Cancer patients look to oncology specialists for highly skilled treatment. Yet others may affect their disease experiences - their partners, wives, husbands or close family members.
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