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Cancer Poses Challenges for Husbands' Frame of Mind
Date:3/20/2008

They take their cues from wives' emotional well-being, study suggests

THURSDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- For couples coping with cancer, the physical health of the husband -- as either patient or caregiver -- appears particularly influenced by the wife's frame of mind, new research suggests.

The finding suggests that a husband is particularly sensitive to fluctuations in his wife's experience of psychological distress more so than she is to his.

The research was presented recently by Youngmee Kim, director of the American Cancer Society's Family Studies Research, during the launch of an ACS "Hope Lodge" in New York City -- part of the society's nationwide network of free temporary housing for cancer patients undergoing treatment.

Kim said the finding, which is scheduled for publication in an upcoming issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine , evolved from the premise that "cancer care-giving is equally distressing to the cancer caregiver as it is to the patient."

And, she stressed, "the issue has a great impact on society," given that nearly 11 million cancer survivors are currently living in the United States --a figure likely to rise as the population ages.

To gauge the nuances of this impact, Kim conducted a survey of the quality of life and psychological distress experienced by 168 married patient-caregiver pairs -- half coping with breast cancer, half coping with prostate cancer.

Most of the participants were white, middle-aged, relatively affluent and well-educated. Most were interviewed by mail approximately two years following the initial cancer diagnosis.

Kim found that although all the caregivers and patients appeared to both affect and be affected by each other's state of mind, gender drove some differences in the pair's dynamic -- with men generally more vulnerable.

The greater the psychological distress among wives suffering from breast can
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