Anger is a common emotion for both patients and their partners when facing cancer, but in almost a quarter of relationships, that anger turns psychologically or physically violent. According to the results of a new study published in Supportive Care in Cancer, patients of any sex report acts of abuse from their partners during the cancer journey.

For their cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study, the researchers surveyed 141 patients with cancer of any site, stage, or sex from January–April 2022. Patients’ mean age was 50, and 38.3% were male. Overall, 24.8% reported experiencing various acts of violence from their partners, including:

  • Restricting certain types of food and clothing (21%)
  • Psychological violence (20%)
  • Exposing intimate information about the patient’s health to others (17%)
  • Ignoring the patient (13.5%)
  • Restricting visits with friends or family members (9.2%)
  • Verbal assaults (9.2%)
  • Physical violence (7.9%)
  • Race-related abuse (7.1%)
  • Financial violence (4.3%)
  • Torture (3%)

The data did not differ by sex. Factors that correlated with likelihood of intimate partner violence were the patient’s disease stage and education level and whether they were currently undergoing cancer treatment.

As patients’ frontline cancer providers, oncology nurses are in a prime position to identify the red flags of domestic violence, conduct confidential assessment screening, and call in supportive services. The study findings demonstrate the need to monitor all patients, regardless of sex.

The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence has a repository of tools for healthcare providers, including several specific to culturally competent screening, and the New York City Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence offers the Medical Providers’ Guide to Managing the Care of Domestic Violence Patients Within a Cultural Context.