Relationships after breast cancer


Cancer is also very stressful for partners, children, family and friends. They also need time to adjust after treatment ends, and might experience similar feelings. 

It’s important to continue to be open and honest with each other about how you are feeling and to make time to spend time together when you are up to it.  

Read more about the impact of family and friends after treatment.  


Partners and breast cancer

It’s important that a woman and her partner continue to be open with each other about how they’re feeling once breast cancer treatment is over.

Once treatment is over, a woman’s partner may expect things to be as they were before treatment. It can sometimes be difficult for a partner or other close friends to come to terms with the fact that she needs time to recover and adjust to life after treatment.

Share your feelings, hopes, fears and concerns. Talk about the things you still find difficult and make plans for the future together.

If you’re having difficulties in your relationship once treatment is over, you may like to see a counsellor or other trained professional together or separately.

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Children and breast cancer

A woman’s children are likely to have been affected by her diagnosis of breast cancer.Your children will probably be excited about the thought of your treatment finishing and spending more time with you. It’s important to let them know that you might still feel tired or unwell now that treatment is over. This will help them understand if there are times when you are feeling too tired to play with them.

You may want to talk to children about what’s happened to you. They probably have lots of questions. Answer their questions as honestly as possible in words they can understand.

Children may worry about what your diagnosis means for them – whether they might also develop cancer. Teenagers may be particularly vulnerable. They may be worried about how you’re coping as well as dealing with their own feelings.

Tips for helping children once treatment is over

  • Continue to be open: Tell your children how you’re feeling now that treatment is over. Give simple, honest answers to their questions and correct misunderstandings. Children respond well when they feel they are being given time especially for them.
  • Make time: Your children probably missed you while you were having treatment, and spending time with you will help reassure them that everything is OK. If you’re feeling tired, find activities you can do while resting – like reading a book or doing a puzzle while sitting or lying down.
  • Look for warning signs: Adolescents may have mixed emotions, loyalties and coping abilities. In some respects they thrive on being regarded as an adult, but during times of illness in the family it can be really hard going. Be aware of this and look for signs that your child needs a little extra support and encouragement.

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Friends and breast cancer

Friends are often an important part of your support network. You may have friends who have supported you throughout your breast cancer journey, or new friends you have made along the way.

During your treatment, friends who have not experienced cancer may have found it difficult to know what to say or how to help you.

This may be the same once treatment is over. Telling friends when you feel down, and asking them for help when you feel tired or unwell can help them understand how they can support you better.

Some women say that they lose some of the support that has helped them through their cancer journey once treatment is over. Friends may not call as often because they think you’re now ‘back to normal’. Or they may say how well you’re looking when really you still don’t feel great. It’s important to keep sharing your feelings with those close to you, including any fears or concerns you have. This will help you move forward at your own pace.

Talking to colleagues about breast cancer

Whether or not you stopped work altogether during your treatment, or took periods of time off for treatment, you might wonder what to tell your colleagues when you return to work again.

If you’re returning to the same job, it’s likely that your manager or colleagues will be aware of the reason for your time off. However, this isn’t always the case.

Tips for talking to colleagues about breast cancer

The following tips may be helpful when considering discussing your breast cancer experience at work.

  • Who would you have talked to about personal issues that have a bearing on your work before your diagnosis?
  • Who needs to know about the possible effects of treatment on your performance?
  • Who needs to know about your absence or potential absences?
  • What positive impact on your relationships might a low-key approach to letting others know have?
  • How might your colleagues be concerned about your health and performance with or without knowledge about your treatment for early breast cancer?

More information about returning to work and cancer

The Cancer Council NSW has developed a comprehensive guide about work and cancer that includes information for employees and managers.