This page provides a wealth of information and resources for partners of those with prostate cancer.
This page offers resources to help partners and carers of those who have prostate cancer.
Watch our webinar:
'Our prostate cancer journeys: Empowering partners of people with prostate cancer'
This webinar is an information resource for people affected by prostate cancer. It is a collaboration between Prostate Cancer Research (PCR) and Ipsen Ltd. This project has been funded by Ipsen Ltd.
DRSC-GB-000241 | September 2023
- Carers Trust work to transform the lives of unpaid carers. It partners with its network of local carer organisations to:
- Provide funding and support
- Deliver innovative and evidence-based programmes and raise awareness
- Influence policy.
- They provide information about:
- Money and benefits
- Health and wellbeing
- Legal and Carers’ rights
- Work and learning
Visit the Carers Trust website to find out more information and find your local carer organisation (this link will open in a new tab).
- Carers UK (this link will open in a new tab) provide online information about all aspects of caring. This includes:
- Financial support
- Practical support
- Work and career
- Health and wellbeing
- Guides, tools and resources
- Technology and equipment
- Support where you live.
- They also have a helpline. If you have a question about caring, or just need to talk to someone, you can call their helpline on: 0808 808 7777. It is open from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
- If you have a more complex problem, you can email them at: email@example.com.
- They run a range of online meetups.
- Care for a cuppa: These sessions offer a space to meet other carers, share experiences and find mutual support.
- Share and learn: Do something you enjoy and boost your wellbeing.
- MeTime (Wales): These sessions are a series of online activities to support your wellbeing.
- Visit the Carers UK website (this link will open in a new tab) to find out more about these sessions and how to join.
- They have developed the jointly app
- Carer’s UK activity hub
- Includes a series of short video workouts and bitesize functional exercises that feature real carers alongside instructors. The videos will help you be active in a way that works for you:
- At a time that’s convenient
- Offering an inclusive and fun way to feel the physical and mental benefits.
- Covering a range of activities
- Inclusive of all ages and fitness abilities.
- Includes a series of short video workouts and bitesize functional exercises that feature real carers alongside instructors. The videos will help you be active in a way that works for you:
- Mobilise (this link will open in a new tab) are an online service that harnesses the collective knowledge, wisdom and expertise of unpaid carers.
- Working closely with local authorities and carer support organisations across the UK, they provide free online support to unpaid carers (this link will open in a new tab)
- They provide help and guidance about all aspects of caring.
- They also run ‘Cuppas’. The Mobilise online or virtual cuppa is a free 45-minute video call where you can connect with around 12 other people who are also looking after a loved one. Find out more by visiting their ‘Cuppas’ webpage (this link will open in a new tab).
- Citizens Advice (this link will open in a new tab) has information for carers including how to access practical and financial support.
- MIND, (this link will open in a new tab) the mental health charity, has information on supporting yourself while caring for someone (this link will open in a new tab). It talks about:
- Your mental health as a carer
- Isolation and loneliness
- Anxiety and stress
- Depression and guilt
- Frustration and anger.
- Age UK (this link will open in a new tab) is a charity dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life.
- The over-60s is the fastest-growing group in society.
- Age UK provide services and support at a national and local level. They provide help and support for carers (this link will open in a new tab) who are looking after a loved one. This includes:
- Financial support for carers
- Taking a break
- Looking after yourself and changing roles.
- You can search for help in your local area using their ‘support near me’ tool (this link will open in a new tab).
- They also run a free UK advice line. This is for older people as well as their families, friends and carers. Lines are open from 8am to 7pm 365 days a year. Call 0800 678 1602.
- Their Silverline helpline (this link will open in a new tab) is a telephone service specifically for older people aged 55 and over. The Silver Line Helpline gives people the opportunity to have a brief chat or enjoy a longer conversation. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Calls are always free. Call: 0800 4 70 80 90.
Support for Black and minority ethnic people and their families
Black Minds Matter
- Black Minds Matter UK (this link will open in a new tab) is a charity connecting Black individuals and families with free therapy (when available) by qualified and accredited Black therapists. There is also a page of resources.
The Black, African and Asian Therapy network
- The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network (this link will open in a new tab) is the home of the largest community of counsellors and psychotherapists of Black, African, Asian and Caribbean heritage in the UK.
- You can search for a therapist using their directory (this link will open in a new tab).
The Empowerment Group
- The Empowerment group (this link will open in a new tab) is a charity based in England and Wales.
- It supports people of Black African and Caribbean heritage aged 18 and over in the UK facing mental health challenges.
- They offer free and heavily subsidised culturally appropriate therapy. Please note, this is not a crisis service.
Can-Survive UK (Manchester)
- Can-Survive UK (Manchester) (this link will open in a new tab) provides culturally sensitive support and information for people with cancer, their families and carers.
- They are based in Manchester.
- They offer a range of different services tailored to the needs of diverse communities, including WOW – women only Wednesdays.
- WOW! is a support group for women living with or affected by cancer. Whether you have experienced cancer yourself, have a friend or family member who has cancer, or you could be caring for someone with cancer, WOW! is an opportunity to meet other women in a similar position.
- For more information and to register for WOW, visit the Can-Survive UK website (this link will open in a new tab). Please note, these meetings take place at: Kath Locke Centre, 123 Moss Lane East, Manchester M15 5DD.
Bristol Black Carers
- Bristol Black Carers (this link will open in a new tab) has been supporting and empowering carers across the whole of Bristol for over 25 years by providing services which encompass their cultural background.
- They provide person-centred and holistic care, recognising and acknowledging that people from the Caribbean, Africa and Asia whave vast social and cultural similarities and differences.
- They are open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
- Phone: 0117 379 0084
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Whitefriars, 2nd Floor, Room 13
Cancer Research UK
- Cancer Research UK (this link will open in a new tab) provide information on:
- They run a moderated cancer chat forum where you can:
- Talk to others affected by cancer.
- Share experiences.
- Get support.
- There is a section within the forum for people who are caring for someone with cancer.
- Visit the cancer chat forum webpage (this link will open in a new tab) for more information about how to access and use the forum.
Macmillan Cancer Support
- Macmillan Cancer Support (this link will open in a new tab) have a suite of pages that provide information on supporting someone with cancer. This includes:
- Looking after someone with cancer.
- Practical support for carers.
- Emotional support for carers.
- Emotional support for family and friends.
- Dying and bereavement.
- Coping with the cost of living and cancer (this link will open in a new tab)
- Supporting your partner with cancer (this link will open in a new tab)
- They also have a section for partners of someone with cancer (this link will open in a new tab). This includes:
- Your feelings.
- Relationship changes.
- Changes in your role.
- Supporting your partner.
- Supporting each other.
- Possible effects on your sex life.
- How you can help with treatment decisions.
- You can contact their support line: 0808 808 0000 from 8am to 8pm.
- Visit the Macmillan Cancer Support website (this link will open in a new tab) for more information on the advice line and what it can offer you.
- You can also join the Macmillan Cancer Support online forum. You can:
- Share experiences.
- Ask questions
- Vent your emotions.
- Visit the online community page (this link will open in a new tab) for more information on what the forum can offer and how you can join. They also have a carers only forum (this link will open in a new tab).
Prostate Cancer UK
- Prostate Cancer UK (this link will open in a new tab) have a webpage dedicated to support for family and friends (this link will open in a new tab). This covers:
- Supporting someone with prostate cancer
- Being a carer
- Looking after yourself
- Your health
- Relationships and family life
- Being a partner of someone with prostate cancer.
- You can also talk to one of their specialist nurses on the phone or chat to them online. They help partners, family members and friends as well as the person with prostate cancer.
- The nurses are available from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday on 0800 074 8383.
- You can also text NURSE to 70004 to request a call back from a specialist nurse. Visit their website for more information on their specialist nurses (this link will open in a new tab).
- Maggie’s (this link will open in a new tab) provide online information for those who are caring for someone with cancer (this link will open in a new tab).
- You can also visit one of their centres (this link will open in a new tab) where they can provide you with practical and emotional support. The centres are open from 9am to 5pm. You don’t need an appointment.
- Manversation (this link will open in a new tab) is a campaign that aims to raise awareness of the symptoms of advanced prostate cancer.
- The campaign was developed with leading prostate cancer charities Orchid Cancer Appeal and Tackle Prostate Cancer. The campaign has been organised and developed by Bayer.
- Along with Sam Owen, they have produced ‘A woman’s guide to prostate cancer’ (this link will open in a new tab): support and guidance for women whose partners have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
- Sam is relationship coach, psychologist, author, blogger and vlogger. The booklet also has input from four women whose husband had prostate cancer. The guide is in PDF format.
Please note, access to the experts is a paid service.
- Perci Health's (this link will open in a new tab) mission is to:
- Proactively challenge the current status quo for those living with cancer
- Change perceptions about life after treatment.
- Perci provides access to quality cancer experts across many fields focusing holistically on recovery from a:
- Emotional point of view.
- Their services are non-discriminative, with all cancer-types, ethnicities and sexes catered for equally.
- Perci brings together a collective of caring experts who are passionate about reducing the ripple effect of cancer - for individuals and their loved ones.
- Some of the services they offer include:
- Image advice
- Speech and language therapy
- Life coaching
- Menopause advice
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Clinical Pilates
- Psychosexual therapy
- Visit their website (this link will open in a new tab) for more information.
- Janssen Biotech have collaborated with a number of other organisations to create the ‘my prostate cancer roadmap’ website (this link will open in a new tab).
- The site explores the complexity of diagnosing, treating and living with advanced prostate cancer.
- It includes a section called ‘a road together’ (this link will open in a new tab) which is aimed at family members and close friends. It explores:
- Open communication.
- Facilitating productive visits to the healthcare team.
- Health and wellness.
- Providing emotional support.
Cancer Caring Coping
- Cancer Caring Coping has been set up by Queen’s University Belfast.
- On their website you can see and hear the stories and experiences of real cancer caregivers who want to give support, advice and tips for coping in the caring role.
- There is also guidance on how to look after yourself as well as your loved one.
- Visit the Cancer, Caring, Coping website (this link will open in a new tab) for more information.
Fans for the Cure
- Fans for the Cure is an American non-profit organisation that seeks to promote men’s health.
- The podcast called ‘supporting husbands with prostate cancer’. features two women whose husbands have journeyed through prostate cancer. (this link will open in a new tab)
- They share their experiences and challenges of being caregivers to life partners dealing with serious disease.
- The podcast is 46 minutes long. A transcript is available.
Prostate Cancer Support Thunder Bay
- Prostate Cancer Support Thunder Bay is a non-profit organisation based in Ontario, Canada.
- They have produced two videos featuring three female partners discussing their experiences as partners of men with prostate cancer.
- These videos are hosted on YouTube and are about 13 minutes long each.
Supporting your partner with a terminal illness or at the end-of-life
- Marie-Curie (this link will open in a new tab) provide support for those caring for or supporting someone who has a terminal illness or is at the end of their life.
- Visit their website (this link will open in a new tab) for more information.
- You can call their free support line on 0800 090 2309. It is open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 11am to 5pm on Saturday. On bank holidays they’re open from 10am to 4pm.
- You can send them an email at email@example.com or chat to them on webchat (this link will open in a new tab).
- They also have the Marie-Curie online community (this link will open in a new tab) a space for you to share thoughts, feelings and experiences.
- The Marie Curie Support Line team moderate this community and are also there to help with any questions you may have. There is a section dedicated to caring for someone.
- Hospice UK (this link will open in a new tab) have a number of resources for carers (this link will open in a new tab. These include:
- Caring for someone at home.
- Juggling caring and work.
- Getting residential care.
- Bereavement support.
- Looking after yourself.
- Death and dying - what to expect.
- Sue Ryder (this link will open in a new tab) provide palliative, neurological and bereavement support.
- They have a section on their website that provides terminal illness advice for families and carers (this link will open in a new tab).
- Carers UK have a section on end of life planning (this link will open in a new tab).
- This includes information on:
- Advanced care planning
- Emotional support
- Hospice care.
- End of life at home.
- Hospiscare (this link will open in a new tab) Devon have written a blog that talks about the importance of self-care (this link will open in a new tab).
- This includes some top tips for self-care including:
- Sleep hygiene
- Pockets of time
Cancer Council NSW (Australia)
- Cancer Council NSW have a podcast called ‘caring for someone in their last months’ (this link will open in a new tab).
- They talk to Jane Phillips who is the Director and Professor of Palliative Nursing at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).
- They cover issues such as:
- How do carers cope with the news?
- How can carers support someone who is likely to die within months or weeks
- How can you talk about dying if they don’t want to.
- The podcast runs for just over 32 mins. A transcript is available.
- They run a whole series of other podcasts about advanced cancer (this link will open in a new tab). These include:
- ‘Caring for someone with advanced cancer’
- ‘Managing relationships as the carer’
Sex, intimacy and relationships
Prostate Cancer Research
- All links will open in new tabs.
- n 2021 Prostate Cancer Research, in collaboration with Tackle Prostate Cancer, developed a webinar series Living Well with Prostate Cancer. There are two webinars on sex and intimacy.
- Both sessions are led by Lorraine Grover a psychosexual nurse specialist.
- The sessions aim to help patients and their partners get a better understanding of the nature of sexual dysfunction along with better ways of management.
- Each webinar is about one hour long.
Cancer Research UK
- Cancer Research UK have information on sex and cancer for partners (This link will open in a new tab). This includes:
- Issues around communication
- Supporting your partner
Prostate Cancer UK
- Prostate Cancer UK (This link will open in a new tab) have information on their website about sex and relationships (This link will open in a new tab).
- They also have a sexual support service (This link will open in a new tab). This is open to partners as well as the person with prostate cancer.
- It is an opportunity to talk to one of their specialist nurses with an interest in helping with sexual problems after treatment with prostate cancer.
- You can call 0800 074 8383 or fill in the referral form on their website (This link will open in a new tab).
Cancer Council NSW (Australia)
- Cancer Council New South Wales have lots of information on sexuality, intimacy and cancer and concern for partners (This link will open in a new tab).
- They also have a podcast called ‘sex and cancer’ (This link will open in a new tab).
- This is about 28 minutes long. A transcript is also available. You can listen directly on their website or on your smartphone or tablet using:
- Movember is a global men's health charity.
- They fund a programme called True North which supports people through their prostate cancer journey.
- Truenorth Movember (This link will open in a new tab) have a number of articles that talk about sex after prostate cancer (This link will open in a new tab). All of teh following links open in new external tabs.
- This includes:
- Sex after prostate cancer: Communicating with your partner.
- Prostate cancer and sexless marriage: how planning a sex date can help.
- Sex and prostate cancer: Keeping your sex life strong while getting older.
- Sex after prostate cancer: how to boost your sex drive.
- Dealing with anger, grief and emotions during sex after prostate cancer.
- Spontaneous sex after prostate cancer: Coping with changes and keeping the passion.
- 5 mental health tips to improve your sex life after prostate cancer.
- Using sensate focus exercises to reclaim sex and intimacy after prostate cancer.
A Touchy Subject
- A Touchy Subject is run by Victoria Cullen a sexuality educator. She has:
- In one of her YouTube videos, called 'sex after prostate cancer', Victoria speaks with Australian woman Fiona White. Fiona is the partner of man who has had a prostatectomy.
- Fiona talks very openly about her relationship before and after her partners prostate cancer surgery. She also discusses:
- Using Viagra and injections to create erections.
- The challenge of intentional rather than spontaneous sex.
- How her own sexual function changed after menopause and her own cancer diagnosis.
- How to overcome painful sex and vaginal dryness.
- Fiona’s recipe for keeping their sex life going in the future.
- What they do when penetrative sex is not an option.
- The video can be found on the Touchy subject YouTube channel (This link will open in a new tab). It is about 30 minutes long.
Cancer Society New Zealand
Cancer Society New Zealand have a webpage called information about sex when your partner has cancer (This link will open in a new tab).
- How could my partner’s cancer affect our sex life?
- Sex and physical changes.
- Sex and body image.
- Tips to help bring back intimacy.
The Sexual Medicine Society of North America (SMSNA)
- The Sexual Medicine Society of North America (SMSNA) explore sensate focus and how it works (This link will open in a new tab).
- Sensate focus is a technique used to:
- Improve intimacy and communication between partners around sex.
- Reduce sexual performance anxiety.
- Shift away from ingrained sexual patterns that may not be useful for the couple.
- Jo Divine (This link will open in a new tab). is a sex toy company founded by Samantha Evans and her husband. Samantha has a professional background in nursing.
- 'As a former nurse, I understand that many healthcare professionals receive little or no training about how to advise their patients about enjoying sexual intimacy and pleasure in spite of many medical and surgical interventions and health conditions and diseases impacting upon sexual health, function, intimacy and pleasure….’ Samantha Evans.
- Samantha has written a blog called: ‘Prostate cancer surgery can affect sex for both partners’ (This link will open in a new tab).
- The blog includes the impact on same sex as well as straight relationships.
- Note that the blog does contain links to sex toys sold on the site.
- Dipsea (This link will open in a new tab) are a passionate team of writers, editors, directors, and engineers who believe in empowering stories that light you up.
- Every story and session they release is created in-house and in partnership with a network of paid contributors and voice actors.
- The two female co-founders felt that as women, the story of female sexuality had been left unfinished.
- They wanted to create stories that were made for them, their friends and all the women who felt like erotica didn’t really connect with their lives and experiences.
- Visit the Dipsea website (This link will open in a new tab). for more information.
The College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT)
- COSRT (This link will open in a new tab) is the UK’s only professional body dedicated to psychosexual and relationship therapies.
- They have a page of information and downloadable fact sheets (This link will open in a new tab). on subjects such as:
- Cancer sex and relationships.
- Common sexual problems.
- Therapy approaches.
- Psychotherapy and counselling.
- They also have a ‘find a therapist’ (This link will open in a new tab) section, where you can look for a therapist in your area.
- Relate offer relationship counselling and sex therapy.
- There will be a small charge.
- Your local Relate Centre will be able to tell you more.
- To access your local centre, visit the Relate website (This link will open in a new tab).
Sex with Cancer
- Sex with Cancer is an online shop, an artwork and a public campaign exploring how people living with and beyond cancer can take control over their own health and wellbeing.
- Visit the Sex with Cancer website (This link will open in a new tab).
You may find it helpful to speak to other partners of people with prostate cancer. Joining a support group can give you the chance to hear experiences from other people who have been or are going through the same journey as you.
Tackle Prostate Cancer
- Tackle Prostate Cancer (This link will open in a new tab) are the only UK-wide charity representing people with prostate cancer and those who care for them.
- They run a helpline (this link will open in a new tab) which is staffed by volunteers who are living with or have been affected by prostate cancer. It is open every day of the year from 9am to 9pm. You can contact them on 0800 035 5302.
- They also support patient groups around the UK. You can search for your nearest support group on their support group page (this link will open in a new tab). Many of these groups welcome partners and families.
- The National Prostate Cancer Partners support group is currently available for all partners of those living with prostate cancer. The group meets quarterly via zoom and offers space for partners to give and receive support at any stage of their journey. There is the opportunity for group support and individual support, all partners are welcome and can attend on an ad hoc basis.
- Contact details:
Support for your own health issues
Women’s issues, health and the menopause
Balance - Newson Health
- The Balance website and App (this link will open in a new tab) was set up by Dr Louise Newson, a GP and menopause specialist. She is also a member of the Government menopause taskforce.
- Balance is a safe space to learn all things perimenopause and menopause through evidence-based information and knowledge.
- The Balance app (this link will open in a new tab) allows you to track your symptoms, share your story, monitor your sleep, explore a collection of evidence-based articles and be part of a supportive community.
- Menopause Support (this link will open in a new tab) is a not-for-profit organisation and the home of the #MakeMenopauseMatter campaign.
- Menopause Support provides:
- Henpicked (this link will open in a new tab) is a website for women ‘who weren’t born yesterday’.
- They give women a place to have their say.
- There are inspirational life stories, tips for happiness, health and wealth, relationships and more. They also have a menopause hub.
Wellbeing of Women
- Wellbeing of women (this link will open in a new tab) is a charity dedicated to women’s gynaecological and reproductive health.
- They fund research and campaign to improve outcomes across women’s health.
- They also provide easy-to-understand information (this link will open in a new tab) about all aspects of women’s health. This includes:
- Periods and menstrual health
- Gynaecological cancers
Women's Health Concern
- Women’s Health Concern (this link will open in a new tab) is the patient arm of the British Menopause Society.
- It provides a confidential, independent service to inform and reassure women about their gynaecological, sexual and post-reproductive health. This includes:
- Find a menopause specialist
- Email advisory service
- Factsheets on the most common gynaecological, sexual health and other conditions
- Menopause wellbeing hub
- BMS TV videos
- Menopause in the workplace
Women's Wellbeing Club
- Women’s Wellbeing Club (this link will open in a new tab) run peer support groups at local venues nationwide as well as online.
- They provide safe, confidential spaces for any woman to attend. You can receive and give support.
- They also have blogs on subjects such as:
- Dealing with anxiety in the workplace
- The importance of sleep to our mental health
- Meditation for stress and anxiety relief.
- You can find your nearest club using their find a club section. Their online support group meets every Tuesday from 7pm until 9pm.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for the link to access their online meeting.
Men’s issues, health and support
Andy's Man Club
- Andy’s Man Club (this link will open in a new tab) want to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health and create a judgement-free, confidential space where men can be open about the storms in their lives.
- They run free, weekly peer-to-peer support groups for men over 18.
- The groups run every Monday from 7pm. Use their group finder tool (this link will open in a new tab) to find a group near you.
- If you can’t find a group near you, and you want to join a group online, please contact: email@example.com.
- Men’s Sheds (this link will open in a new tab) are the UK Men’s Shed’s Association, the support organisation for Men’s Sheds across the UK.
- Men’s sheds are a place to explore:
- Practical interests
- To practice skills and enjoy making and mending.
- Unlike your own shed, they are all about social connections and friendship building, sharing skills and knowledge.
- Use their shed finder (this link will open in a new tab) to find a shed near you.
Men's Health Forum
- Men’s Health Forum (this link will open in a new tab) has a mission to improve the health of men and boys.
- They have a number of articles on health and exercise (this link will open in a new tab). This includes:
- Erection problems, everything you need to know
- Penis basic FAQs
- DIY man MOT.
- Man Health (this link will open in a new tab) support men through difficulties in their mental and physical health, ultimately to prevent suicide.
- There is advice on:
- Lifestyle changes
- Eating healthily
- Stress reduction.
- They also run peer support groups around County Durham and the North East of England. To find a group near you visit their group finder (this link will open in a new tab)
The Mankind Project
- The Mankind Project (this link will open in a new tab) UK and Ireland have a mission to support all men to establish and pursue their own life purpose and nurture their emotional wellbeing.
- They run transformational experiences (these require payment) and peer-to-peer men’s groups.
- The groups are safe and inclusive spaces for men to:
- Share experiences
- Explore personal growth.
- They run both online and face-to-face groups.
- Visit their men’s groups page (this link will open in a new tab) for more information on how to join.
Who can benefit from this information?
This information can benefit partners of those with prostate cancer.
When we talk about partners, we are including:
- Anyone in a civil partnership
- Anyone in a romantic partnership.
Some of the information may also be useful for:
- Family members
- Anyone caring for someone with prostate cancer.
Important things to know
Am I a carer?
A carer is anyone, including children and adults who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support. The care they give is unpaid. (NHS)
'Someone who, unpaid, looks after a person with cancer who couldn't manage without this help'. (Macmillan Cancer UK)
Why is it important to consider yourself a carer?
- You may not think of yourself as a carer or want to think of yourself as a carer. Often people just see themselves as a supportive partner. Some may feel that they are doing what you would expect a partner to do for someone they love or care about.
- In the same way, the person with prostate cancer may not want to think of their partner as their carer. This may make them feel vulnerable or dependent or may impact on their self-esteem.
- However, accepting that you have a caring role, even if it is small, can open up a gateway of formal and informal support. This can be:
- Financial support: carer’s allowance, carers credit.
- Emotional support: carer support helplines, carer’s support groups.
- Practical support: carers assessment, training, help with gardening and housework, advice, gym membership and exercise classes to relieve stress, carer’s emergency card.
- Support for your health and wellbeing: discounts for therapy etc. early or preferential access to free flu vaccinations at your GP surgery.
The varied role of carers
- The 2021 census suggests that there are about 5.7 million carers across the UK.
- Carers take on many roles and responsibilities. These will be different for everyone. The amount and type of care provided varies from providing a few hours a week (e.g. to do some shopping or take someone to medical appointments), to round the clock care.
You may help your partner:
- With their personal care e.g. bathing, dressing and getting out of bed.
- With practical tasks such as cooking, shopping, driving them to healthcare appointments and giving medications.
- By providing emotional and psychological support. This may mean being a listening ear or going along to appointments for moral support.
- By just keeping a sense of normality in the household.
Will being a carer affect my own health?
- Hearing that your partner has cancer is challenging and stressful.
- Many partners or carers put their own needs and feelings to one side to focus on the person with cancer.
- Separating your role as a partner from that of a carer can be difficult.
- It is especially difficult if you are supporting someone who needs a lot of care.
- Doing this over a long period of time is not good for your own health and wellbeing. It can result in:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes.
- It is a good idea to let your GP know that you have caring responsibilities. In addition to free flu vaccinations, they may be able to offer you more tailored support.
- Learn about your rights as a carer in the UK. Mobilise (this link will open in a new tab) is an organisation for carers. Many of their staff team have a caring role.
- They bring together the collective knowledge of unpaid carers. They have produced a simple guide to your rights as a carer. Visit the mobilise website for more information on your rights as a carer (this link will open in a new tab)
Taking 15-30 minutes a day just to relax can be beneficial. You may:
- Take a short nap.
- Do some yoga or meditation.
- Go out for a walk or run.
- Do some gardening.
- Read a book or magazine.
- Watch TV.
- Keep connected with friends and family. Go out for a coffee or to the cinema with your friends.
- Keep up your personal interests. This may be a:
- Gym class
- Reading group. Many libraries run a reading group. Visit ‘Reading groups for everyone’ (this link will open in a new tab) to find a reading group near you.
- Singing group
- Church or faith group
- Walking group. If you don’t fancy walking on your own, you can join Ramblers UK. Visit the Ramblers UK website (this link will open in a new tab) to find a group near you. There may also be 'walk and talk' groups running in your area. Search for walk and talk groups on the internet or contact your local council.
- Be honest about your feelings. It’s OK (and not selfish) to feel annoyed or irritated at your partner or what’s happening in your life. Just don’t bottle it up.
- Share how you feel with a trusted friend, family member or colleague. Just getting your feelings out in the open can give you a sense of relief.
- Join a local support group. This may be a general carers group. Every local authority area will have a carer support organisation. You can find you local carer support organisation on the Carers Trust website (this link will open in a new tab).
- You may join a group related to cancer. For example, Maggie’s run support groups for friends and family. Check their website for groups near to you (this link will open in a new tab). You can also contact Macmillan Cancer Support or a specialist nurse from Prostate Cancer UK (this link will open in a new tab).
Tackle Prostate Cancer (this link will open in a new tab) are the only UK-wide charity representing people with prostate cancer and those who care for them. They also support patient groups around the UK. You can search for your nearest support group on their support group page (this link will open in a new tab). Many of these groups welcome partners and families.
- If you would rather gain support from non-cancer groups, you could access Men’s Sheds (this link will open in a new tab). Men’s sheds are a place to explore practical interests, to practice skills and enjoy making and mending. Unlike your own shed, they are all about social connections and friendship building, sharing skills and knowledge. Use their shed finder (this link will open in a new tab) to find a shed near you. While some shed have only male members, other choose to have mixed membership including women. Contact your local shed for more information.
- If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your feelings with someone else, write them down in a journal or diary. This doesn’t have to be a paper diary. You can do this on your phone or tablet. But do remember to write about the good times as well.
- The charity MIND makes some suggestions for how to keep a journal (this link will open in a new tab) for example:
- Have a 'no filter' journal. Just write whatever is on your mind each day. It doesn’t need to be neat or have any structure.
- At the end of the day, note down some things that went well or things you are grateful for.
- The Family Caregiver Alliance (based in the USA) have put together a series of eight, short, online relaxation exercises. These are audio only. They cover:
- Deep breathing
- Muscle relaxation
- Mindfulness meditation
- Guided imagery.
You can dip in and out depending on what you need. Visit their website to access the exercises (this link will open in a new tab).
- Penny Brohn (based in Bristol) run free, online group sessions for anyone affected by cancer. This includes friends and family. Groups cover:
- Movement and exercise (gentle yoga, Qi Gong, move, dance feel).
You can sign up on their website (this link will open in a new tab).
- Carers UK carried out a study that looked at the experiences of carers over the age of 55 living in England. They found that they were less active than other adults aged over 55. The biggest barriers to physical activity were.
- Not having the time.
- Not being motivated.
- Not being able to afford the costs.
- Not having anyone to go with.
- They have put together a series of physical activity and wellbeing videos. These include:
- Bitesize functional exercises. These are only 30-seconds long.
- Longer video workouts all between 15-20 minutes. These videos include:
- Seated exercises
- Boxing exercise and more.
- They also have information on how to get started with yoga, with suggestions on where you can access yoga for free. Visit the Carers UK website to find out more.
- Look for online exercise classes. You Tube is a great resource, and many classes are free.
- Our Parks (this link will open in a new tab) was founded in 2014 by fitness coach Born Barikor to harness the legacy of the London Olympics. Its aim is to ensure that easy access to exercise is available to all. As well as online exercise classes, you can search for classes in your area. Our Parks uses technology that allows residents to book and register for classes and communicate with other park users.
- Don’t neglect your own physical health. If you feel unwell, make an appointment with your GP or practice nurse. Don’t neglect any nagging symptoms. Go and get checked out.
- Eating healthily and regularly will help to keep your immune system healthy and your energy levels up.
- If you find it hard to find the time to get to the supermarket, you can try online grocery shopping and have it delivered. Most major supermarkets offer a delivery service.
- The mental health charity, Mind have put together a useful fact sheet on food and how it affects your mental health. Visit the MIND website (this link will open in a new tab) to find out more.
The stress and anxiety of dealing with your partner’s cancer diagnosis and treatment can affect your sleep.
- The NHS ‘Every mind matters’ webpage (this link will open in a new tab) has advice and guidance on dealing with sleep problems.
- Relaxation techniques can help. The NHS have a bedtime meditation video (this link will open in a new tab) that helps you to leave the stresses and strains of the day behind you and prepare for a restful sleep.
- Make sure your bedroom is at the right temperature. Cooler temperatures can be better for sleeping.
- Try not to look at phone or tablet screens for about an hour before going to bed. Screens can alert you, both psychologically and physically. Looking at a bright screen before bed makes your brain think that it’s daytime. This makes it difficult to relax and fall asleep. The BBC has put together a webpage explaining why it is bad to use screens before bed (this link will open in a new tab).
- Reading can often take you mind off worries and help you to relax and get to sleep. So have an easy-reading book by the bed. Or you can listen to an audio book.
- Music and meditation can be helpful for sleeping and relaxation. BBC Radio 3 has a music and meditation podcast. This includes relaxing music, guided meditation and chats with a range of experts. They have also written a blog on how music and meditation can help you relax and sleep better.
- Visit the BBC Radio 3 music and meditation podcast webpage for more information.
- Spotify also have some sleep music playlists that can be used at bedtime.
- It’s tempting to let the cancer take over your life. Tests, consultant appointments and conversations about the cancer can dominate your daily life.
- So, it’s important to set aside some time to do enjoyable things together. Maybe plan a date night. You could:
- Go to the cinema.
- Go out for a walk in the local park.
- Go out for lunch or take a picnic.
- Or just spend quiet time together chatting over a coffee.
- A lot of anxiety can come from not knowing what is going to happen next.
- Finding out more about treatment choices and possible side effects helps you to:
- Feel more involved in your partner’s care.
- Help your partner decide on the best treatment for them.
- Better understand the possible impact of treatment side effects on your relationship, sex life and general quality of life.
Your role and responsibilities in the family may change.
- You may become the only breadwinner while your partner is having treatment or more long-term if their condition gets worse.
- You may have to take on roles that your partner used to do like gardening, driving, cooking, cleaning, and shopping or dealing with bills and finances.
- Daily routines may change.
- You may have to make changes to your work and social life.
- This will need a period of adjustment. If you’re finding everything overwhelming, it’s OK to ask for help. You are not a failure for reaching out to others.
- You can ask for help from:
- Friends and family
- Your workplace: There are statutory (legal) rights for carers in the workplace. Visit the Carers UK website (this link will open in a new tab) for more information.
- Your GP practice. Carers UK have a useful page on registering yourself as a carer at your GP practice (this link will open in a new tab).
- Age UK provide help and support for carers (this link will open in a new tab) who are looking after a loved one.
- Online forums or cancer support lines. For example, Carers UK (this link will open in a new tab) helpline and forum Cancer Research UK's cancer chat or Prostate Cancer UK's specialist nurses (this link will open in a new tab.
- If you are a female partner, you may be having your own problems related to perimenopause and menopause.
- Both can result in a number of symptoms which may affect your sex life as well as your ability to cope with stress and anxiety. For example:
- Loss of libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Discomfort during sex
- Frequent infections in your pee
- Weight gain and changed body shape
- Low mood and anxiety.
- Hot sweats
- Mood changes and brain fog
Visit the NHS menopause page (this link will open in a new tab) for more information.
- It may be worth visiting your GP for help and advice. They can talk to you about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or alternatives. Make sure you:
- Ask for a GP with an interest in women’s health and menopause issues
- Gather as much information on menopause and perimenopause as you can before the visit
- Make a list of your symptoms to take with you
Make a list of questions to ask.
- For further information and advice you can go to the Balance website or Menopause Support website (these links will open in a new tab). They provide a number of free resources and fact sheets.
- Speak to your partner about your issues. If they don’t know, they can’t help. The Menopause Support website has information for partners (this link will open in a new tab).
- NHS inform in Scotland have a webpage about sexual wellbeing, intimacy and menopause (this link will open in a new tab). This includes a very short video that dispels the myth that menopause means the end of your sex life.
- Jo Divine (this link will open in a new tab) is a sex toy company founded by Samantha Evans and her husband. Samantha has a professional background in nursing. Jo appeared on the Davina McCall Sex, Myths and the Menopause (this link will open in a new tab) programme on Channel 4. Read Jo's blog on sex, myths and the menopause (this link will open in a new tab).
- If you’re aged between 40 and 74 you may be entitled to a free NHS health check. Visit the ‘What is an NHS health check? Webpage (this link will open in a new tab) for more information’. This is a check of your overall health. It can also tell you whether you’re at higher risk of getting certain health conditions.
- Make sure you take advantage of all the free NHS screening tests offered to you:
- Breast screening (mammogram): Anyone registered with their GP as female will be invited for NHS breast screening between the ages of 50 and 71. Visit NHS website (this link will open in a new tab) for more information.
- Cervical screening (a smear test): Anyone registered with their GP as female should be offered cervical screening from the age of 25 up to 64. Visit the NHS website (this link will open in a new tab) for more information.
- Bowel cancer screening: This is currently available to anyone aged 60 to 74. However, the programme is expanding to make it available to everyone aged 50-59 years as well. This started in 2021 and is happening gradually. Look out for a letter in the post. Visit the NHS bowel screening page (this link will open in a new tab) for more information.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening is offered to men during the screening year (1 April to 31 March) that they turn 65. This screening will detect abdominal aortic aneurysms. This is a dangerous swelling or bulge in the aorta. The aorta is the main blood vessel that runs from your heart down through your tummy. Visit the NHS AAA screening page (this link will open in a new tab) for more information.
- Dealing with a cancer diagnosis can put a strain on your relationship.
- In addition, some treatments for prostate cancer have side effects that can cause:
- A loss of libido
- Problems getting and keeping an erection (erectile dysfunction).
- Dry ejaculations
- Problems with peeing and pooing e.g. dribbling pee or constipation
- Growth of breasts
- The penis to feel smaller (penile shrinkage).
- These can affect your partners self or body esteem and feelings of masculinity. This in turn may have an impact on your relationship and sex life.
Keeping communication open and honest
- Good communication is important to keep your relationship working well. Keep the topic on the table. Talking about sex, your feelings and your relationship in the midst of dealing with cancer, can be difficult. However, it is better to be open and honest about how you feel.
- You may feel that you need to protect your partner’s feelings. But hiding away from difficult issues can cause misunderstandings and may lead to more problems. Plus, sharing your feelings can bring you closer together.
Encourage your partner to share their feelings. This may not be easy. You will need to be patient and choose the right time and place. Wait until they are feeling relaxed, you are both alone, and have plenty of time. For example, plan to go out for a walk.
- Be honest about your own emotions, feelings, needs and fears. It’s OK to say ‘I feel worried’ or ‘I feel sad’. This is not blaming your partner, it’s just how you feel. ‘I’ statements’ can be a good way to express yourself without conveying blame. These are often better than ‘you’ statements e.g. you make me feel mad/lonely etc. These may make your partner feel defensive.
- It can be helpful to address any issues you have had with your relationship before the cancer. You may find relationship therapy helpful.
- Relate, the relationship support charity, offer relationship counselling and sex therapy. There will be a small charge which differs between centres. Your local Relate Centre will be able to tell you more.
- To access your local centre, visit the Relate website.
- You can also visit the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists website to search for a private therapist near you.
- You may need to make changes to your sex life.
- You will both need to have realistic expectations. Reaching acceptance that things may never be the same is important. This does not mean that your sex life will not be as good as before. It will just be different!
- This is a chance to be creative:
Using sex toys like vibrators and dildos
- Trying different sexual positions.
- Engaging in oral sex.
- Engaging in mutual intimate touch.
Using erotic materials. This does not have to involve porn. It may include movies, books, poetry, art or stories and podcasts like those from erotic storytellers and sexual wellness company, Dipsea (this is a paid service but a free trial is available).
Give yourself time to adjust
- It may take time to find out what works best for you both. This exploration and discovery can bring you closer together as a couple and a sense of humour is important. There will be mishaps and challenges along the way. Try and not take things personally and discuss how you feel with each other.
- Don’t forget your own sexual needs. Masturbation either alone or with your partner present is also an option.
- The Jo Divine website (this link will open in a new tab) has a blog about having great sex without intercourse (penetrative sex). It talks about masturbation, sex toys and other ways of enjoying sex and improving intimacy.
Psychosexual and relationship counselling
- If problems continue, it may be worth thinking about visiting a psychosexual and relationship therapist. You may be able to access this service through the NHS. Our services search tool will allow you to search for hospitals near you that offer a sexual function service.
- Your partner’s consultant or clinical nurse specialist may also be able to make a referral.
- You can also access a therapist privately. The College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT) is the UK’s only professional body dedicated to psychosexual and relationship therapies. They have a page of information and downloadable fact sheets (this link will open in a new tab) on subjects such as:
- Cancer, sex and relationships.
- Common sexual problems.
- Therapy approaches.
- Psychotherapy and counselling.
- They also have a ‘find a therapist’ (this link will open in a new tab) section where you can look for a therapist in your area.
- Relate offer relationship counselling and sex therapy. There will be a small charge. Your local Relate Centre will be able to tell you more. To access your local centre, visit the Relate website (this link will open in a new tab).
- Don’t see your partners rejection of sexual contact as a rejection of you. It is more likely to be the effects of the treatments or a fear of failure to perform. Let them know that you don’t feel rejected and that you understand.
What is intimacy?
Intimacy is a feeling of closeness, togetherness, and emotional connection with your partner.
How can we be intimate?
- You don’t have to engage in penetrative sex to be intimate with your partner. Exploring non-sexual touch and taking away the expectation of penetration can help you both to relax and just focus on being close.
- Ways of expressing love and intimacy through non-sexual ways may include:
- Mutual massage
- Sleeping together naked
- Taking a bath or shower together
- Holding hands.
- Your partner may be reluctant to engage in non-sexual touch because of the expectation of sex and a fear of failure if they can’t ‘perform’.
- Reassuring them and taking away the expectation of penetrative sex may help you both to relax and just enjoy each other.
- Having an honest conversation about what you both want when you are engaging in non-sexual touch, may relieve any stress and expectation for both of you.
Dealing with a changed body image
- Your partner may have surgery scars or changes to their body due to hormone therapy.
- Touching those areas of their body or including them in massage may make your partner feel less conscious or distressed about how their body has changed.
Having open conversations about this first, letting them know that the changes don’t affect the way you feel about them, may help you both relax and reduce any anxieties.
Date nights and having fun
- Non-physical kinds of intimacy are also important and may increase after a cancer diagnosis. Examples may include:
Making time to listen to each other and making the other person feel heard.
- Giving compliments.
- Having fun together, laughing, dancing and sharing experiences.
- Giving little gifts. They don’t have to be expensive.
- Think about booking in some ‘date nights’. This may be a romantic meal or just some quality time together doing something you enjoy.