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Marital distress worsens cancer recovery

Women coping with difficulties in their marriage have a harder time recovering from treatment for breast cancer.

Marital distress worsens cancer recovery

Women coping with difficulties in their marriage have a harder time recovering from treatment for breast cancer. Often women in distressed relationships also suffer from depression, and they show worsening physical symptoms and dietary habits. Researchers from America assessed stress, health behaviour, and health outcomes every 4 to 6 months over 5 years among 100 breast cancer survivors. Overall, 56 percent had undergone modified radical mastectomy, while 60 and 92 percent had adjuvant radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The women were all in stable relationships, lasting about 22 years, but 28 of them reported their relationship as distressed. The remaining women said they had a non-distressed relationship. It was found that the distressed group showed significantly lower levels of physical activity, greater and more severe symptoms such as nausea, and more symptoms of depression. Over 5 years, women in distressed relationships showed slower recovery from cancer-related traumatic stress symptoms such as unwanted thoughts about cancer diagnosis / treatments and fear of recurrence. These women also had continuously heightened levels of stress, and the tendency for worsening exercise and poor eating habits. The researchers suggest that screening breast cancer survivors for depression would help identify those involved in distressed relationships who could benefit from appropriate referrals for assistance. Such assistance may offset poor outcomes for patients doubly burdened by psychological distress and relationship problems.
Cancer
January 2009
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