UBC Faculty Research and Publications

“Partner”, “Caregiver”, or “Co-Survivor”—Might the Label We Give the Partners of Cancer Patients Affect the Health Outcome of the Patients and Their Partners? McGillivray, Hannah M. K.; Piccolo, Elisabetta E. L.; Wassersug, Richard J. (Richard Joel), 1946-


Having a life partner significantly extends survival for most cancer patients. The label given to the partners of cancer patients may, however, influence the health of not just the patients but their partners. “Caregiver” is an increasingly common label for the partners of patients, but it carries an implicit burden. Referring to partners as “caregivers” may be detrimental to the partnerships, as it implies that the individuals are no longer able to be co-supportive. Recognizing this, there has been some effort to relabel cancer dyads as “co-survivors”. However, many cancer patients are not comfortable being called a “survivor”, and the same may apply to their partners. Cancer survivorship, we argue, could be enhanced by helping keep the bond between patients and their partners strong. This includes educating patients and partners about diverse coping strategies that individuals use when facing challenges to their health and wellbeing. We suggest that preemptive couples’ counselling in cancer centers may benefit both patients and their partners.

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