, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 405-415
Date: 17 Oct 2006

Life after cancer: couples’ and partners’ psychological adjustment and supportive care needs

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Goals of work

Partners of cancer patients may experience significant distress at the time of treatment and many may experience persistent difficulties, although little research has examined their longer term psychosocial outcomes or supportive care needs.

Materials and methods

One hundred and fifty-four cancer survivors who were 1–11 years post diagnosis and disease-free and their partners completed mailed questionnaires.

Main results

A positive relationship was found between psychological distress and supportive care needs both within and between partner and survivor samples. Partners reported high levels of anxiety and supportive care needs, most frequently concerning relationships and the impact of the cancer illness. Partners within couples reported both shared and unique needs, although agreement on ratings of shared needs was low. Needs did not diminish over time although partners demonstrated psychological resilience and reported positive outcomes. Predictors of distress and unmet needs were explored: physical QOL, relationship satisfaction, and total needs contributed to variability in partners’ distress; relationship satisfaction and total needs were associated with survivors’ distress. Distress and relationship satisfaction were associated with partners’ unmet needs; only distress was associated with survivors’ unmet needs.


Partners are not merely providers of support, but need support themselves many years after a cancer diagnosis and in the context of apparently cured disease. The quality of the dyadic relationship may be critical in determining both partner and survivor distress and needs, and may prove a useful target for psychosocial interventions.