Dating for breast cancer survivors

What about the issue of children — you may be left with the further challenge of infertility following treatment.

Linda Dackman was 34 when she had a mastectomy. She had no way to find help as a single woman looking for a relationship, wanting to know when and how to tell about her mastectomy and her disease. She wrote the book Up Front: Sex and the Post-Mastectomy Woman , a personal account of how she coped with these problems. Each time she met someone new, Linda had to struggle with when and how to tell, and then how to behave in intimate situations. In the beginning, she would blurt out her history almost immediately, frightening herself and her date.

Gradually she got to a point where she was able to wait till the third or fourth meeting, and discuss it without upsetting herself or her companion. Finding a suitable partner is always a challenge, but there are enough success stories to keep up hope, to take action and make things happen. That was my own story. Therefore, we built upon experiment 2 and designed experiment 3 which we presented to students in the next academic year, and varied conditions based upon illness statuses: In the years following end of active treatment, people treated for cancer remain in follow-up.

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This means they are regularly checked for their health, and for possible tumor activity to detect metastases or relapse. Some survivors use medication to lower the chance of recurrence. It is possible that fear or distancing from a serious illness is larger when confronted with someone who is still having regular check-ups at the hospital, and therefore may be seen as not yet fully cured. Also, the illness still plays a role in daily life shortly after treatment completion. Therefore, we hypothesized that students would be less interested in dating someone who has had cancer and is still under close medical monitoring as compared to a survivor who no longer regularly visits the hospital for check-ups related to the treatment of cancer.

The method and procedure was similar to experiment 2, only the vignettes were adapted to differentiate between two phases of cancer survivorship. The online survey was presented to first year medicine students in the year following experiment 2. This resulted in a sample of respondents, of which ten left the survey before randomization see Table 1 , column experiment 3. Participants in the beyond follow-up condition were on average Univariate general linear model with condition beyond follow-up vs. We entered initial interest as measured in part 1, before illness disclosure as covariate.

It also appeared that in the beyond follow-up condition, women showed more interest in a date than men, which was contradictory to our hypothesis Table 2. General linear model with condition and gender as fixed factors and the traits as dependent variables showed that survivors in the active follow-up condition were seen as more independent, less insecure, more friendly, less healthy, more experienced, and stronger than survivors in the beyond follow-up condition Table 4.

When Do I Tell Someone I’m Dating That I’ve Had Breast Cancer?

Men did not assess these traits differently between conditions. All traits correlated with interest in a date, which varied between conditions Table 3. In the beyond follow-up condition, participants were more interested in a date when they assessed the person as being more insecure and needy, whereas this was not the case in the active follow-up condition nor in the other conditions of experiment 2.

Interest of participants in the active follow-up condition was positively related to their assessment of the person as independent, experienced, and strong, whereas this was not the case in the other condition. Best time to disclose: Preferences regarding the best time to disclose were somewhat different from the second experiment. When students were presented with a cancer survivor as a potential dating partner, responses differed by disease trajectory i.

It seems that a more recent health issue and for example dealing with more rigorous surveillance and uncertainty about relapses does result in some hesitation to go on a date with potential partners with a cancer history. In contrast to the first two experiments, where we found only few of our hypotheses were supported, this experiment showed some support.

Similar to experiment 2, initial interest in the presented person was the strongest factor in being interested in a date. However, this is striking given that women assessed survivors in active follow-up as more positive e. Thus, even though single women saw them as having more desirable traits, they were less interested in a date. It has to be noted though that when comparing men and women in the survivor beyond follow-up condition, women were more interested in a date than men, which was unexpected.

Associated Data

We can only speculate about underlying factors of this finding, but we did see some differences in traits that uniquely correlated with interest between conditions. Interest of students in someone who was having regular check-ups active follow-up was related to more positive traits like independent, healthy, experienced and strong which is a more expected finding an active student, going on with life despite health insecurities. In contrast to all other conditions in the first experiments, women had a higher interest than men to date someone beyond follow-up.

It might also be an artifact due to the rather small sample of male participants in this experiment. Unfortunately, due to the small number of men, correlations between conditions could not be purposefully explored by gender as well. In addition, and different from the second experiment, most respondents wanted to learn about the cancer history at the first date as opposed to hearing about it after a couple of dates.

However, for both experiments, the more serious health condition no vs. Early disclosure seems more warranted when survivors are closer to diagnosis. In sum, these three experiments showed that ever-single and divorced people are as likely to be interested in a date with a cancer survivor as with someone without a cancer history, unless they are still in active follow-up. Survivors were also judged as more positively than other people e. Nevertheless, these positive traits did not make them more attractive as a potential partner.

It might be that people are afraid of possible relapses, other long-term side effects, and the foresight of regular hospital visits. This is emphasized by the finding that widowed single people hardly showed any interest in a date with a cancer survivor. They probably did not want a chance to experience losing a loved one again. The advantages of our online experiments were in the design.

Vignette studies are especially useful when it is difficult to experimentally manipulate sensitive topics [ 54 ]. In the dating-setting, people tend to uphold their own dating standards and preferences more so at a distance than face-to-face. Any critical attitudes or socially undesirable thoughts would have had more room in our design because the people who were judged were not physically present. This is supported by a study on ideal partner preferences which showed that these preferences are mostly upheld in an abstract context, such as reading about a potential partner online, and are less important when there is face-to-face contact [ 45 ].

However, more studies should focus on previously partnered and middle-aged people. This could shed more light on their motivation to date or not to date someone who has had cancer. Additionally, our student sample just started medical school and they may be more understanding and less anxious when meeting people who were or are facing a serious illness. Future studies should include a more representative sample of young adult single people.


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  • Do single people want to date a cancer survivor? A vignette study!

Our limited subsamples of widowed 25 participated and divorced respondents can only represent a starting point for future studies. These groups may be specifically important for future research as cancer is more common among older adults. Their preferences and dating behaviors when finding a new partner with or without cancer might be of particular importance for future research and the clinical practice.

Nevertheless, they may not be very active on dating websites and other forms of recruitment for studies may be explored. In line with this, our experiments need replication as the latter two included young adults with a high educational level and overrepresented women. Young people are not very likely to have personal experiences with peers who have had cancer, which may positively color their ideas about what it means to be a cancer survivor and its impact. Furthermore, we think more research attention is needed to gain insight into actually establishing and maintaining romantic relationships after cancer, beyond the phase of getting on a first date.

Our experiments only touched upon initial liking and did not include any form of communication or how people would actually respond when survivors disclose their cancer history. It is advised for survivors to keep in mind that most people wanted this disclosure after some contact and initial interest arose, and not immediately at the first date or before meeting. Actual responses might differ between chatting online and meeting face-to-face and talking about the cancer experience, which actually also gives the other person the opportunity to ask and clarify questions about the cancer experience [ 55 ].

It is possible that hearing about the actual challenges of having had cancer will invoke more fear or distancing in the dating partner. The same holds true for the survivors as well: In line with such reasoning, partnered cancer survivors who receive loving, caring, and understanding responses from their spouse, show less depressive symptoms [ 56 ]. Receiving these positive responses when disclosing to a potential partner will probably have an important impact on whether the survivor wants to continue dating or not.

Current cancer advocate campaigns now focus on successes of survivors, calling them heroes and emphasizing strength [ 32 , 33 ]. This may be reflected in the positive trait assessments of survivors we found. However, the reality of having survived cancer is more confronting. We believe future studies on finding a partner after cancer should focus on more sensitive topics such as lasting infertility or changed appearance , and the way survivors and their dating partners handle conversations about this.

Cancer survivors who completed treatment can expect the same success in finding a date than people without a cancer history, and can wait until after a few dates to disclose. Survivors who are still being regularly checked for disease activity, and somewhat older survivors who potentially date widowed people, could expect more hesitant reactions. They could also disclose their experience with cancer earlier, but not before the first in-person meeting. Reactions toward actual disclosure and risks for potential discontinuation of dating need to be explored in cancer survivors.

Future studies should focus on how survivors could best start a conversation about having had cancer when they are looking for a romantic partner. The authors wish to thank Ayleen Somers for facilitating the design of and data collection for experiment 1. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Published online Mar Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Received Dec 21; Accepted Feb This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Interaction effect between relationship history and health condition.

The y-axis displays estimated mean values of interest in a date. Abstract Objective Qualitative studies indicated that cancer survivors may be worried about finding a partner in the future, but whether this concern is warranted is unknown. Conclusion and implications for cancer survivors Cancer survivors do not have to expect any more problems in finding a date than people without a cancer history, and can wait a few dates before disclosing.

Introduction Finding a romantic partner is a central goal in life for most people and essential for well-being [ 1 , 2 ]. Interest in a cancer survivor among members of a dating website Many singles look for a potential date or partner online ever since dating websites became available [ 40 ].


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Table 1 Descriptive statistics of respondents in all experiments. Open in a separate window. Table 2 Interest in dating in all experiments. Table 3 Correlations between interest in a date and assessed traits. Discussion Among members of a dating website, interest in dating a cancer survivor was lower than interest in a comparable person without a cancer history. Interest in a cancer survivor among young adults Because members of a dating website are a diverse population when it comes to age and previous relationship status, we aimed to test our hypotheses in a more homogeneous group of young adult single people.

Discussion Young adult single students were as interested in dating another student who was treated for cancer a few years earlier than someone without such an illness history. Interest in a date and phase of disease follow-up In the years following end of active treatment, people treated for cancer remain in follow-up. Method Participants and design: Table 4 Assessment of traits in experiment 3. Discussion When students were presented with a cancer survivor as a potential dating partner, responses differed by disease trajectory i. Summary and overall discussion In sum, these three experiments showed that ever-single and divorced people are as likely to be interested in a date with a cancer survivor as with someone without a cancer history, unless they are still in active follow-up.

Implications Cancer survivors who completed treatment can expect the same success in finding a date than people without a cancer history, and can wait until after a few dates to disclose. Supporting information S1 Dataset 7Z Click here for additional data file. S1 Fig Interaction effect between relationship history and health condition. TIF Click here for additional data file. Acknowledgments The authors wish to thank Ayleen Somers for facilitating the design of and data collection for experiment 1. Data Availability All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

Satisfaction with Relationship Status: Journal of Happiness Studies Marriage and Psychological Wellbeing: But that was all before a small local recurrence and now who the fuck knows what my odds are. Yes, that sounds good. I also think about living a lot. The now is important. What to do with the now? I have no answers for you. One would think it would make a person take off and follow their dreams.

Do single people want to date a cancer survivor? A vignette study

Often I thought about running away to Spain and writing on the beach. Either way, the reality is money — among many other constraints — is a factor. Finding the balance between possibly living for a very short time and possibly living for a very long time is maddening.

Dating after breast cancer

So I try to stick to this: I pretend I have exactly five years to live. This is long enough to make some real plans, to make a real difference somehow, to spend time with family and friends, to still find that dream job, to continue to learn and discover, and to not dwell on death. And the five-year plan is also short enough to not be complacent, or take things for granted, or worry about stupid shit. I worry about plenty of stupid shit, e.