Previous research indicates that partners of men diagnosed with prostate cancer exhibit higher levels of distress and have more unmet needs than men with prostate cancer themselves. The main aim of this study was to record the experiences of partners and assess methods for addressing their needs.
A pilot community survey was conducted to assess women’s attitudes to prostate cancer and document their experiences since their partners diagnosis (n = 61). In addition, two women presented written biographical accounts of their experience and n= 8 participated in a focus group.
From the survey data, 66% of partners reported feeling a deep sense of shock at the diagnosis and 41% indicated that they were currently receiving no support. From the biographical data, women indicated a lack of support in coping with the challenges involved in caring for their partner while dealing with the effects of the diagnosis themselves. Forty seven per cent of women also reported that their partners were reluctant to communicate about cancer. Most women sought information from health professionals (69%), online (64%) and from family and friends (54%).Women in the support group indicated their lack of involvement in treatment decision making even when the outcomes affected them, their inability to fully share their concerns with their partners, and the difficulties they had in accessing suitable information. .
It is important for health professionals to recognise this lived experience of partners and the fundamental relationship changes that ensue as a result of diagnosis and treatment. Information and support needs to be addressed effectively and multisectorally to ameliorate the distress of partners.