My girlfriend has cancer

A cancer diagnosis can have a big impact on a relationship, but you can help each other through this by trying to be open and honest about how you’re feeling.

  • A cancer diagnosis is hard for your girlfriend, but it can be hard for you too
  • Being open about how you’re both feeling helps you connect openly and honestly with each other
  • Your girlfriend might be worried about her appearance changing, sex, her fertility, or you growing apart. It’s always good to talk about these issues and get support if you need
  • You can help your girlfriend by spending time with her, talking about normal stuff, asking what she needs, and trying not to smother her too much
  • Looking for info online is a great idea, but make sure what you’re reading is trustworthy.

Dealing with cancer as a couple

When you got together with your girlfriend, dealing with cancer was probably the last thing on your mind.

It’s a really tough situation for both of you, and you’re probably feeling a lot of the same things – scared, upset, confused, angry.

As time passes, you’ll both have good days and bad days, and you might find this experience brings you closer or sometimes makes things harder.

But it’s really important not to hide your feelings – because being honest can help both of you understand what you’re going through.

The basic facts about cancer

There’s a lot of info on this site about different types of cancers and different treatments. But if you’ve just found out your girlfriend has cancer, you might want to start with the basics:

  • Cancer is a disease of the cells, so right now some of your girlfriend’s cells aren’t acting normally
  • The cause of most cancers is unknown – and your girlfriend hasn’t done anything to cause cancer
  • Sometimes cancer can be cured, and cancer treatments are getting better all the time
  • Some of the treatments do have side effects – things like losing your hair, feeling tired all the time, being sick and changes in weight
  • Treatment can last between a few months and a few years
  • You can’t catch cancer from other people
  • Always use a condom if you’re having sex with someone on chemotherapy, as the drugs used can be passed onto you during sex (including oral sex). You also need to avoid pregnancy at this time.

Common worries your girlfriend might have

Understanding the things your girlfriend might be worried about can help you support her. Hopefully she’ll feel able to talk to you about what she’s thinking. But it might be helpful to know that some common worries are: 

Being a burden

People often worry that they’ve become a hassle to their partners when they’re diagnosed with cancer. It’s important to try and talk about issues like this, and to let your girlfriend know how you really feel.

Looking different

Cancer treatments can change the way people look, and that can have a big impact on how they feel mentally. Supporting your girlfriend through this can really help to keep her confidence up.

Sexual problems

Sex might be the last thing on your girlfriend’s mind during cancer treatment, or having sex might be difficult in comparison to before. A change in your sexual relationship can be hard for both of you. Have a chat with her about how she’s feeling and what she feels comfortable with.

Fertility problems

Some treatments can affect your chances of having kids. If this is something that you think you might want, either soon or at any point in the future, it’s a good idea for both of you to talk to a doctor or clinical nurse specialist. You can read more about this on our fertility page.

Growing apart

People often worry that their partners will lose interest in them once they’ve been diagnosed with cancer – which is another reason to talk honestly with each other about how you’re feeling.

How you can help your girlfriend

You probably want to help your girlfriend but might not know how. That’s totally normal. You can always ask her if there’s anything she needs, although it can be tough to ask for help, so try to be patient if she sometimes gets annoyed.

And you can try and do a few of these simple things too:

Talk openly

Hiding emotions can push people apart. So try to talk honestly about your feelings, without criticising or blaming each other.

Plan time to be together

Arrange time to do what you love and to enjoy each other’s company.
Talk about normal stuff. Neither of you will want to talk about cancer the whole time, so make sure you chat about whatever you used to chat about, too.

Try not to smother her

It’s easy to get overprotective when someone you like or love has cancer, but try to give your girlfriend space. It can be frustrating to feel like you’re losing your independence.

Laugh and cry

It’s OK to be happy and sad – so don’t feel guilty about either of these emotions.

Wash your hands

Your girlfriend might be more likely to catch infections during cancer treatment – and washing your hands reduces the risk of infection spreading.