Family Life After Cancer

A cancer diagnosis isn’t something that only affects you— it also affects the important people in your life.

Even after treatment ends, the emotional and physical changes cancer leaves behind can cause a ripple effect that can be felt by not just you, but the entire family as well. 

One common concern of cancer patients’ children, grandchildren, and siblings is, “Will I get cancer, too?” Depending on the cancer, that answer could be yes, considering some cancers, such as breast, ovarian, endometrial, pancreatic, colorectal, and prostate cancers, could put blood relatives of cancer survivors at an increased risk of developing them. Genetic risk evaluation can help determine the risk for relatives.

Another concern among couples of child-bearing age is, “Will we be able to conceive a child?” Again, the answer varies. Your oncologist likely told you that cancer treatment could affect fertility and discussed fertility preservation with you. Therefore, you may have preserved eggs or sperm in advance and you and your partner will need to discuss how to proceed. If you didn’t address fertility before treatment, trying to conceive a child could leave you feeling stressed and anxious.  

Whether you want to conceive a child or not, you and your partner may have concerns about sex and intimacy. You both may wonder, “Is it OK to be sexually active?” Sometimes, cancers and cancer treatments do impact sexual function. At times, you might feel self conscious about your body image and your partner may worry about causing you discomfort.

It’s important to remember that all of these questions and concerns are completely normal. The good news is that with time and open communication, you and your family will find yourselves focused less on cancer and more on enjoying normal life together.