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How Does Cancer Affect Dating?

Copyright © 2014 AARP. All rights reserved.

Dating after 50 requires understanding that one or both partners may suffer some health issues. It's not uncommon for older people to have had some kind of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer during their lifetime, and according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, approximately 3 out of every 100 women get uterine cancer.

As men get older, their risk of getting prostate cancer increases; if they live long enough, 1 in 6 men will have the disease.

Many kinds of cancer are not only dangerous but also disfiguring or disabling. The treatments for prostate cancer can cause partial or complete impotence and urinary incontinence. Breast cancer surgery can require removal of the breast and other tissue, and uterine cancer can require removal of the ovaries, triggering menopause if it hasn't already occurred.

Other kinds of cancer, such as certain kinds of skin cancer, may require cuts into the face or lips, places that hurt people's vanity as well as their body.

These body changes can have psychological effects that go far beyond the health prognosis of recovery. The body has changed and it doesn't do what it used to or look like it used to, and some people are ashamed to date (or get near sex) because their body is damaged in some way.

It's possible that you don't want to take someone with cancer into your heart and home, and your date may feel the same. But as people become more comfortable with cancer being an often curable disease — or at least a controllable one — the choice to be with someone who has or had cancer is increasingly a positive one.

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