Prostate cancer affects an estimated 1.1 million men worldwide. Women do not have a prostate, so they can’t develop prostate cancer, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect them.
A study uncovered that women whose husbands have prostate cancer report problems with their own health.
Spokesperson of the European Association of Urology Hein Van Poppel explained, “Many prostate cancer patients have a hard time, both physically and emotionally. This work shows that this stress can spill over and affect wives and partners. This is good for neither of them. Good mental and emotional health needs to be part of how we judge a treatment, and we need to try to ensure that both patients and their partners get the support they both need.”
There are not many studies available that examine the impact on female spouses’ health of those with prostate cancer.
The Danish study reviewed 56 women whose husbands had advanced prostate cancer. The men were being treated with hormone therapy, which reduces the production and release of testosterone. Side effects include low libido, fatigue, and frailty.
Forty-six percent of the women reported that their health had been affected because of their husband’s prostate cancer. In-depth interviews with eight of the women revealed that the women felt cut-off from others and fearful. They were also concerned as to how their lives would change if their husband’s cancer progressed.
Co-leader of the study Jeanne Avlastenok added, “Many felt increasingly socially isolated. Their husbands were fatigued both by the illness and by the treatment, which meant that they couldn’t socialize as a couple, which made the women feel cut off from social support. They also gradually developed a real fear of being alone, even within the relationship. They felt that they had to be strong, which meant that they couldn’t share the burden of the illness.”
Another concern of the women was that their role in the household would change. “As their men became less able to fulfill their usual roles, the women had to undertake tasks which had previously fallen to the men. Many of these are simple tasks, but for the women, they represented a sea change in the way their lives were structured,” continued Avlastenok.
The study reveals the impact that cancer can have on both members of a relationship.