How to Support a Spouse With Prostate Cancer

Three Methods:Providing Emotional SupportOffering Practical HelpCoping With Emotions

A cancer diagnosis can be devastating. It causes fear, sadness, and even anger. When your spouse receives a prostate cancer diagnosis, you will obviously want to support him in any way that you can. There are many things that you can do to let him know that you are there for him emotionally. You can also help ease his burden in other ways. Don't forget--you need to take care of yourself, too.

Method 1
Providing Emotional Support

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    Listen. A prostate cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming. Although it is treatable, prostate cancer can cause major lifestyle changes and significantly impact your spouse's emotional and physical well-being. He will likely feel overwhelmed at first, so be there to listen to him express his feelings.[1]
    • Be an active listener. Let your spouse know you are listening by nodding your head and giving verbal signs that you hear him.
    • Some men need to yell and cry after receiving the diagnosis. Know that this is not personal. You can listen to his anger and demonstrate that you are there to support him while he processes his feelings.
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    Give him space. Your spouse's diagnosis will have a big impact on your life, too. But try to remember that while you are both dealing with change, he is the one with the illness. He may need some time by himself to process his emotions. That is normal and healthy.[2]
    • Let him know you will be there when he's ready to talk. Try saying, "I respect your need for some alone time. Just let me know if you change your mind and want some company."
    • Remember that his emotions are not aimed at you. Try not to feel hurt if he asks for some space.
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    Be encouraging. There are many ways that you can bolster your spouse's spirits. You can offer him encouragement by simply reminding him that you are in this together. Say something like, "I'm here for you no matter what."[3]
    • Encourage your spouse to participate in meaningful activities. If he is a spiritual man, you can encourage him to keep going to church.
    • Prompt him to continue to spend time with loved ones. Many people tend to initially withdraw after a cancer diagnosis. Remind your husband that he loves being around his grandchildren, for example.
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    Communicate effectively. When dealing with prostate cancer, it is important to keep the lines of communication open. Let your partner know that you are ready and willing to listen. You can demonstrate your support by asking questions.[4]
    • Ask how he feels about his treatment options. Listen carefully to any of his concerns.
    • Express your opinions. Try saying, "I feel like the doctor's first suggestion might work best for our family. What do you think?"
    • Be open and honest and ask him to do the same.
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    Acknowledge his feelings. For many men, it is comforting to talk about how they feel. Remind your spouse that you are happy to listen to him. If he expresses fear, acknowledge that that is a normal reaction.[5]
    • Avoid being judgmental. Everyone reacts differently when dealing with cancer. Remember that all emotions are valid.

Method 2
Offering Practical Help

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    Learn about treatment. Emotional support is very important, but there are also many practical things you can do to help your partner. Take the time to go with him to doctor's appointments. The more you understand his treatment, the better equipped you will be to help him deal with it.[6]
    • Be prepared to ask questions. Do some research ahead of time and write down anything that seems unclear. The doctor will be happy to answer your concerns.
    • Help your spouse gather information. You can find information and support groups online, and you can ask your doctor for pamphlets, too.
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    Implement lifestyle changes. Be aware that you might need to make some changes to your daily routine. You spouse might have a lot of medical appointments, so be open to adjusting your schedule to accommodate these new priorities. Let him know that you are willing to help him adapt to changes. [7]
    • One side effect of prostate cancer is often incontinence. If this is an issue for your spouse, be supportive and helpful. For example, when you go to the movies, choose seats near the back and towards that aisle so that he can quickly get to the restroom.
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    Address intimacy. Prostate cancer can cause complications that make sex difficult for men. This can cause problems in relationships. Address the issue openly and honestly with your spouse. Allow him to talk openly about his needs. You should express yours, too.[8]
    • Initiate intimacy. You might need to make changes to your sex life, but that doesn't mean it has to become dormant. If you initiate intimacy, that lets your partner know you still desire him.
    • Be physical. Make sure that you kiss and hug him as you normally would.
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    Take more responsibility. Cancer treatment can be physically and mentally exhausting. Offer to start taking more responsibility around the house. Try to cook more meals, or run the errands that your spouse would normally do.[9]
    • Explain that you are not trying to take his place, but that you are just trying to help. For example, say, "I know you enjoy taking Emily to dance lessons, but if you're tired, I'm more than happy to drive carpool this week for you."
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    Be his voice. Some people find it very difficult to talk about their cancer. Ask your spouse if he would like your help breaking the news to family and friends. The two of you can come up with a plan that will take some of the pressure off of him.[10]
    • Once people know about his cancer, they will want to express their support. If your spouse seems overwhelmed, you can answer the phone or e-mails for him.
    • Try saying, "Stan will be glad to know that you dropped by, but he's feeling pretty tired today. I'll have him give you a call when he's up to it. Thanks for your support."

Method 3
Coping With Emotions

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    Process your feelings. Everyone responds differently when a spouse is diagnosed with prostate cancer. It will have a big impact on your life. It is important that you acknowledge your emotions and take time to deal with them.[11]
    • Remember that it is normal to feel fear, frustration, and grief, among other emotions.
    • Allow yourself time to go through a range of emotions. Like him, you will have good days and bad days.
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    Practice self-care. In order to effectively care for your spouse, you need to remember to take care of yourself. Your needs are important, too. Make sure that you are remembering to eat right. You should also remember to take breaks from care-giving.[12]
    • Try to find a balance in your life. Caring for your spouse will take a lot of your time, but it's important to schedule time for yourself, too.
    • Don't stop doing activities that you enjoy. You might have to miss a meeting of your book club now and then, but don't give it up for good.
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    Ask for help. Dealing with cancer is extremely stressful, so you may need to ask for help from friends and family to manage. Reaching out to friends and family for help can help you to feel less stressed and make it easier to go through your daily activities.
    • If you are having trouble handling the day-to-day tasks, ask friends and family for help. For example, if your daughter has a soccer game when you need to be at a medical appointment, ask someone else to take her.[13]
    • You may also want to find a support group to meet people who are dealing with similar circumstances. There are groups online and ones that meet in person. Ask your doctor to recommend a group of other spouses dealing with prostate cancer.


  • Don't be afraid to ask for help.
  • Remember that your needs are important, too.
  • Gather all of the information about treatment that you can.
  • Remember that it's okay to laugh.

Article Info

Categories: Cancer