Breast cancer

Updated 09 November 2017

Breast cancer and your partner

Women facing breast cancer will need strong partner support to help them deal with the daunting task of taking on a disease that will impact the lives of one in eight SA women.

Women facing breast cancer will need a strong partner support system to help them deal with the daunting task of taking on a disease that will impact the lives of one in eight South African women.

Dr Sally Phillips, Chief Medical Officer of Discovery Life, says that a breast cancer diagnosis results in turmoil for the patient as well as for all family members. "Women typically turn to their husbands or boyfriends as their main pillar of support, so men have a huge role to play in understanding what a woman is going through," she said in a prepared statement.

"It would be very helpful for men to find out about the disease so they're informed about its physical and emotional manifestations. It will empower them to know how to react and be better able to support their partners as it is an enormously traumatic experience," she said.

"For example some women turn to increased risk taking when they're diagnosed, typical of a 'don't care' attitude they adopt as a coping mechanism. It's very scary for the family," Phillips said.

Men need to step up
"Men will also need to take on many of the roles that used to be carried out by their partners and the best way to do this is to sit together and develop a plan to cope," she said.

According to Dr Phillips, the main issues that need to be addressed are what to disclose to children, depending on age and what to tell them as the cancer progresses. Other issues are the numerous doctor visits that affect family routine as well as the burden of frequent hospitalisation.

"Household responsibilities will have to be redistributed, intimacy problems spoken about, frank and open communication worked on and, of course, there are a myriad of financial issues that need to be recognised and incorporated into budgets. Fortunately with good life cover, the financial gap that comes with the costs of treatment and extra lifestyle expenses can be met," she said."

Dr Phillips says that coping advice for the patient as well as the main carer(s) include planning time to rest, delegation of specific tasks, for the patient - not allowing independence to be taken away, good diet, exercise programmes, de-stressing, reducing smoking and alcohol consumption.

"It's also important to recognise that the carer also may become emotionally drained, stressed and often ends up with a chronic disease or severe depression too," she said. – (Discovery Life)

Source: Press release from Discovery Life

October 2006


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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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