There are lots of spouses who will say that cancer didn’t just hit the husband, it hits the spouse/partner as well.
Like all cancer diagnoses, telling a man he has prostate cancer can force him — and his loved ones — to confront his mortality for the first time. But unlike many other cancers, prostate cancer often has a direct effect on the significant other, particularly in the form of erectile dysfunction, a common side effect of treatment, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
The diagnosis can influence a man’s mental health and, in turn, his relationship. A 2014 review of 27 studies published in the journal BMJ Open concluded that the prevalence of depression and anxiety in men with prostate cancer, across the treatment spectrum, is relatively high. The diagnosis of cancer has a psychological impact on the body and mind.
Some side effects of treatment like incontinence can also influence a man’s behavior. Men may not feel comfortable socializing, and so spouses will believe he must be depressed but he may actually just anxious and doesn’t know how to deal with it.
On the upside, it’s possible for the mental health and relationships of survivors to actually improve after prostate cancer. Most men that go through treatment end up on the other side with a great quality of life, and their relationship is the same — sometimes even better because they have a new perspective on the important things in life.