Couples and cancer: 10 tips for better communication

November 14, 2014 | by City of Hope

Cancer is a couple's disease. It affects not just the person diagnosed, but his or her partner as well. It also affects the ability of both people to communicate effectively.

Couples and cancer: Tips for coping Cancer affects not just the person but his or her partner, too. City of Hope helps couples overcome their communication problems and work together during cancer treatment.

The Couples Coping with Cancer Together program at City of Hope teaches couples how to communicate and solve problems as a unit. Here are some practical behavior tips from that program:

Advice for the nonpatient:

•    Actively encourage the sharing of emotional concerns and fears. •    Be open to her expression of concerns as often as she needs. •    Listen to her concerns without trying to “fix," minimize or give advice (unless asked). •    Be physically present at all medical appointments, even when not asked. •    Talk with the breast cancer patient about how the illness is impacting you.

Advice for the patient:

•    Be honest and direct about how you feel, especially about your fears. •    Avoid testing people – be specific about what you want from others. •    If confused about a behavior, ask your partner what he or she is trying to accomplish with that behavior. •    Stay in the present – no past hurts. •    Respect that you and your partner might cope differently.

Cancer patients and their partners can learn more at a special Coping With Cancer Together event on Wednesday, Nov. 19, from 6 to 7 p.m. at City of Hope's Visitor Center in Duarte, California.

The couples and cancer program will be hosted by Courtney Bitz, L.C.S.W., a social worker in the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center; Matthew Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., the Liliane Elkins Endowed Professor in Supportive Care Programs and executive director of supportive care medicine; and Joanne Mortimer, M.D., director of the Women’s Cancers Program.

For more information or to register, contact Sharla Moore at [email protected] or 626-256-4673, ext. 60095.


Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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