Cancer Survival Rates Higher For Married Patients
September 24, 2013

Married Cancer Patients Less Likely To Die, More Likely To Be Diagnosed Early

[ Watch the Video: Marriage A Real Lifesaver For Cancer Patients ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Marriage can be a real lifesaver for cancer patients, according to new research showing that patients who have a husband or wife at the time of diagnosis tend to live longer than their unwed counterparts.

The study, which was published online Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, reported that married cancer patients were 20 percent less likely to die from the disease in comparison to those who were single, separated, widowed or divorced, said Liz Szabo of USA Today.

“Married people in the study fared better than singles no matter what type of cancer. In certain types of tumors – prostate, breast, colorectal, esophageal and head/neck cancers – the survival benefits of marriage were larger than those from chemotherapy,” Szabo added.

Experts from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston also reported that married patients were more likely to have their cancers diagnosed at an earlier stage, when treatment is typically more successful, and to receive more appropriate types of care.

“Our data suggests that marriage can have a significant health impact for patients with cancer, and this was consistent among every cancer that we reviewed,” first author Ayal Aizer, chief resident of the Harvard University Radiation Oncology Program, explained in a statement.

“We suspect that social support from spouses is what’s driving the striking improvement in survival. Spouses often accompany patients on their visits and make sure they understand the recommendations and complete all their treatments,” he added.

Aizer and his colleagues used the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program to conduct a retrospective analysis of 734,889 individuals who had received cancer diagnoses between 2004 and 2008.

They selected the 10 primary causes of cancer-related deaths in the US (lung, colorectal, breast, pancreatic, prostate, liver/bile duct, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, head and neck, ovarian, and esophageal cancer) and adjusted the data to account for age, sex, race and other demographic factors that could impact health outcome.

The researchers found that unmarried patients were 17 percent more likely than married patients to have metastatic cancer (cancer that spread beyond its original site), and were 53 percent less likely to receive the appropriate therapy. Men were also found to have more of a survival boost from wedlock than women, Szabo said.

“We don’t just see our study as an affirmation of marriage, but rather it should send a message to anyone who has a friend or a loved one with cancer: By being there for that person and helping them navigate their appointments and make it through all their treatments, you can make a real difference to that person’s outcome,” explained senior author Paul Nguyen, a radiation oncologist at Dana-Farber.

“As oncologists, we need to be aware of our patients’ available social supports and encourage them to seek and accept support from friends and family during this potentially difficult time,” he added. Experts from Harvard Medical School, the University of Connecticut, UCLA and Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center also contributed to the study.