It’s impossible to escape the onslaught of hearts and flowers around St Valentine's day but many people find that diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer puts their relationships under a great deal of strain. For some the experience brings them closer together but others find they have to work harder to keep a relationship strong.

We often get calls to our Helpline from women who are worried about how their partner will relate to them after their treatment. Breast surgery and hair loss following chemotherapy can alter body image and knock self confidence as can side effects such as pain weight gain or loss menopausal symptoms or loss of libido.

It’s important to talk to your specialist as some of these symptoms can be treated. And have a look at our information about menopausal symptoms body image and sexuality and intimacy.

Talk to your partner

But it’s just as important to talk with your partner even if it feels uncomfortable. Sharing each other's thoughts fears and wishes can bring rewards.

I spoke to someone the other day who wrote her partner a letter explaining both her worries and hopes for the future. It opened a discussion she felt they wouldn't otherwise have had. Sometimes misunderstandings can come to light: in this case her partner had stopped touching her because he was frightened of hurting her but she felt desperately rejected.

In it together

Partners of people with breast cancer can find it hard to know how to respond. It can be difficult to anticipate your partner's needs and you can feel you’re walking on eggshells. Recognising when you need support yourself can be helpful. This could be from a friend a family member or perhaps a counsellor.

You could try our online Discussion Forum where people affected by breast cancer support each other by sharing their experiences and hopes. There’s a separate section for families partners and friends.

You may also want to read our information about facing treatment together.

Talk to us

For those who don’t have a partner by choice or not St Valentine’s day can be alienating. If you feel breast cancer has affected how you feel about relationships and you’d like to talk to someone then please consider calling our free Helpline. We’re not relationship experts but we are here to listen and we might be able to point you in the right direction if you are looking for additional support in this area.