Notifying the Diagnosis of Cancer to Family Members
It is clear that each patient will have his or her own family reality and that each individual person knows best how to manage the information to be notified to their family members in the event of a diagnosis of cancer.
However, the professional experience of the medical oncologists of Initia Oncología goes beyond simple expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and its complications, as this extensive experience has provided our oncologists with the ability to advise on the best manner, timing, and depth at which to notify information such as a diagnosis of cancer to family members.
The notification of this information to adults will certainly not be dealt with in the same way as its notification to children or elderly relatives.
Each family is different and requires an individualised approach.
In any case, we can establish certain desirable guidelines to be followed when informing family members about the cancer diagnosis.
First of all, it should be noted that all information transmitted must be true. Admittedly, the amount of information shared with each family member shall be decided exclusively by the patient or, if required, by his/her legal representative. In the case of minors, this information should be transmitted gradually and as gently as possible, always leaving some open doors and under the direction of their parents or legal guardians.
Nevertheless, counselling provided by the health care professionals involved in the patient’s case, whether the oncologists themselves or the psychology team offering support in this type of situation, is essential to avoid conflict and minimise tensions.
The Medical Oncology specialists of Initia Oncología will advise you on the best way to face the matter of informing the rest of your family.
How to support a family member with cancer
It is clear that a diagnosis of cancer in the family circle will impact many aspects of the daily lives of your loved ones. Not recognising and assuming this fact will be as counterproductive as considering that the disease must become the focus of the patient’s and his/her relatives’ lives from that moment onwards.
Despite this, it is crucial that the patient and those close to him/her maintain a positive attitude and attempt to maintain his/her family routines and habits as normal as possible.
Nevertheless, forcing the patient to perform activities that s/he cannot or does not want to do is not helpful. It is also undesirable to force the patient to maintain a strict diet that does not take into account his/her personal tastes or the exceptional circumstances arising as a result of the symptoms of the disease and the side effects of the therapies required to treat it.
Naturalness in one’s actions should be the norm. It is up to the patient to determine his/her own limits within what can be considered reasonable for each personal situation. Family members, friends, and partners should support the patient without forcing him/her and help without obliging. Doubts about the intensity of physical exercise recommended for each case, whether or not to continue exercising, and at what pace, or about the diet to be followed, will be clarified by your oncologist, always considering your will and actual clinical situation.
Cancer and Partners
Cancer will not only disrupt the daily life of the patient and those close to him/her, but it may also interfere with their sentimental relationship.
The tensions inherent to the new situation could exacerbate pre-existing conflicts or cause new ones arising from the physical or economical constraints associated with the disease.
However, the disease might also be seen as an opportunity to strengthen the existing affectionate bonds between the couple and for both partners to value all that has been experienced up to that point.
The patient will need, more than ever, the support, understanding, patience, and love of his/her family members, and particularly of his/her partner.
At an emotional level, multiplying the expressions of affection and encouraging open dialogue about the concerns and fears that both partners might be feeling in the face of a cancer diagnosis will be most helpful to maintain or restore the relationship between the patient and his/her partner.
In the sexual sphere, understanding and respecting the other person must be a paramount factor to take into consideration. The physical changes that are often caused by cancer and its treatments must be approached with the most absolute respect for the other person’s intimacy, without underestimating them but, at the same time, offering the alternatives that each case might require.
A mastectomy or the loss of hair in a woman due to chemotherapy should never be deemed something insignificant, as they often represent a severe blow to the woman’s self-perceived image. In such cases, value should be placed on the patient’s many other external and internal elements of beauty that a partner well knows how to appreciate.
In the case of men, impotence caused by the disease itself or by some of the treatments required to treat certain tumours must be approached with the utmost sensitivity and large doses of patience on the part of the partner. We must bear in mind that, in intimacy, many other acts and caresses can be as pleasant or rewarding as those offered by a maintained erection.
Keeping an open dialogue on this subject between both partners and seeking advice from professionals in both the fields of Medical Oncology and Psychology will facilitate dealing with these problems and enable the resolution of most of the conflicts arising from these situations.