Supporting Your Spouse or Partner after Treatment

After treatment, your spouse or partner becomes a breast cancer survivor. Thinking about everything the two of you have been through with breast cancer, you should hope that this post-treatment phase will be more “normal” and less fraught emotional turmoil.

Before the diagnosis, each of you likely had certain tasks that were yours to complete. These tasks included housework, possibly transporting children to different activities, grocery shopping, etc. After the diagnosis, these roles may have shifted a bit to accommodate illness and treatments.1 Now after treatment, it is time to reestablish roles, which may or may not be different than they were before.

Every woman’s journey with breast cancer is different from another’s, so there is no way to predict how a woman will begin to cope after treatment. However, you should be prepared for some difficulty as they transition back into their “normal” life. If they find themselves struggling emotionally or psychologically after treatment, just be patient. It is not unusual for a survivor to feel sad, anxious, depressed or even angry after treatment. They may be unhappy with their appearance if surgery caused some scarring or hormonal treatment caused some weight gain. These confidence issues can cause serious problems in the relationship if not managed with sensitivity and understanding.


If your loved one is having trouble dealing with the emotional and psychological effects of treatment, continue to be there for them. Continue to communicate openly and honestly about your feelings. You may find that a support group for breast cancer survivors and their spouses is helpful. Discuss what you think will work best for the two of you and pursue it.

When you married, you were never promised that the journey you would take was going to be an easy one. But trust that during this particular journey, your spouse will need you more than ever. Continue to be patient and loving, and it will make your relationship as great as it was before and potentially even better.2

Bringing Intimacy Back Into the Relationship

A delicate issue that your spouse or partner may struggle with is becoming sexually active with you again. The majority of breast cancer survivors say that they have some problems with this after treatment. Some report causes such as body-image issues, decreased libido as a result of medications, and some even experience physical discomfort during sex. Intimacy is an important part of your relationship, so you must be aware of the issues you may face and be patient with them as well.

  • For body-image issues, think of ways that you can make them feel sexually attractive
  • For energy issues, consider starting an exercise program and making sure to eat a healthy diet. Good nutrition and exercise can do wonders for energy levels.
  • Depression can affect the desire for intimacy, as well as many other aspects of life. Talk to your doctor for information on non-medical remedies and possibly even medications that are available.
  • If intercourse causes pain, make sure that they are comfortable enough telling you about it. Vaginal dryness is not uncommon with breast cancer survivors, as a result of hormonal changes. Vaginal moisturizers may help, such as water-based lubricants. If these remedies do not help, females should see a gynecologist for other potential causes of pain.


1 Bonner, Dede. (2008) The 10 Best Questions for Surviving Breast Cancer. New York: Fireside.

2 Lynn C. Hartmann and Charles L. Loprinzi. (2005). Mayo Clinic Guide to Women’s Cancers. New York: Mayo Clinic Health Information.

This article was originally published on July 27,2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/2/2015.