Dating During and After Cancer

Single men and women often have fears about dating during and after cancer treatment.  

  • You may worry that a new partner will be turned off by physical changes from your cancer treatment. 

  • You may think that a potential mate will be scared that your cancer could come back some day. 

  • You may fear that you will not be able to have sex without pain, that you will have trouble with erections, or will not reach orgasm with a partner. 

  • If you are a younger survivor, you may worry that a partner will not commit to you if you have a fertility problem. 

Age, gender, and sexual orientation can make dating difficult for anyone, not just a cancer patient or survivor. As people age, there are fewer men and more women. Since men tend to look for younger women, this leaves women over 50 with fewer dating prospects. By age 65 there are 4 single women for each single man. But many older women do find new relationships! Gay women do not face this gender gap in age, but older gay men may find it more difficult to meet new partners. Many cancer survivors do find happy, new relationships. The internet gives people a good way to “practice” dating again. You can write an ad about yourself, focusing on your good points. You can even try meeting dates through a web site for cancer survivors. Even if you do not meet someone special, you can get more comfortable emotionally in talking to new people. 

You may worry how and when to tell a new dating partner about your cancer. There is no magic formula, but you are more likely to get a positive response if you wait until some friendship and caring develops. If you wait too long, however, your partner may feel angry or betrayed when you do tell. If you could use a self-confidence booster, try this exercise: Write an advertisement for yourself that you might post on a dating web site. What are the most important things you would like a potential mate to know about you? What interests, hobbies, or activities would like to share with someone? What background information about yourself would you include (for example, religion, height and build, age, nationality, favorite kinds of music, political views)? What qualities would you like in a dating partner? Are you looking for a committed relationship or a more casual one? First write 250 words without mentioning your cancer. Next, write 250 words and include some information about your cancer, including some strengths or positive changes you have gained through the experience. Looking for Love in the Right Places You can increase your chances of finding someone interesting by looking in the right places. Depending on your stage of life and living situation these can include:  

  • Singles groups in your community: Maybe they meet in a religious setting like a church, synagogue, or mosque. Groups or clubs may center around an activity, such as theater, skiing, or travel. 

  • Friends who offer to fix you up with a blind date. Sometimes their judgment is off, but they may have someone in mind whom you would like. 

  • Community organizations, such as charities, nonprofit groups, political groups, or alumni groups. If you give your time to a good cause, it will not be wasted, even if you do not meet Mr. or Ms. Right! 

  • Adult education courses in your community, such as an art course, a photography course or a course on managing money. Again, if you choose something that interests you, the time will be well spent even if no dating opportunities result. You also may make some new friends who share an interest with you. 

  • A health club, exercise group, dance studio, or a yoga, exercise, or company sports team.  

A cancer diagnosis can have an impact on relationships; romantic relationships may present unique challenges as you adjust to coping with physical and mental changes that accompany a diagnosis. It may be difficult to determine when it is the right time to begin dating or how to determine disclosing health information. There is no right or wrong way to return to dating; it may help to consider starting slow and moving at your comfort level; finding support from a trusted loved one or even a professional may help. 

See this article on how to talk about your diagnosis for more tips.