Purpose of review
During the past decade, partners have been seen as integral to cancer survivors’ emotional and sexual well-being. The couple is viewed as the unit that copes with the impact of cancer on the most intimate aspects of the relationship, including sexuality. This review aims to provide an update on research reported in the past 2 years on partners and couples.
Two thematic areas emerge: cancer-related distress management through increased communication, intimacy and building coping skills, and recovery of sexual intimacy. Observational studies have deepened our understanding of both areas and interventions are increasingly tested through more sophisticated methodologies. There is a developing consensus on desired outcomes, including more informed expectations of functional outcomes and enabling grief, communication, acceptance of the ‘new normal,’ and dyadic coping.
The most significant challenge to this area of cancer survivorship is the lack of implementation of psychosocial research findings in usual care. However, clinicians can start the conversation and use concepts identified as relevant and useful in research, such as expectations, grief, or ‘new sexual health normal’ and include partners in their care for cancer survivors. Future steps include continued work on conceptualization of these issues, the development of appropriate measures and interventions, and further dissemination of dyadic data analytic methodology.