ANN ARBOR, Mich. - A cancer diagnosis affects more than just the patient. A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center finds spouses report similar physical and emotional quality of life as the patient.
The study found that what really impacted emotional distress - among both patients and their spouses - was whether the patient was newly diagnosed, facing a recurrence or living with advanced disease.
Researchers looked at 263 men with prostate cancer and their spouses. Participants were recruited from three large cancer centers. Both the men and their wives completed questionnaires that assessed quality of life, including physical, social, family, emotional and functional issues. Patients and spouses each reported on their own quality of life.
The researchers found little difference in quality of life between patients and spouses, but found significant differences based on the phase of their illness. Couples coping with advanced disease had significantly poorer overall quality of life.
The spouses of advanced cancer patients are really carrying the load. Cancer is a devastating illness, and a patients primary resource is the partner, who often doesnt have the information she needs to deal with these complex problems. This isnt just a common cold - this is the person you love and care about dealing with a life-threatening illness, says lead study author Laurel Northouse, Ph.D., R.N., co-director of the Socio-Behavioral Program at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center and Mary Lou Willard French Professor of Nursing at the U-M School of Nursing.
Results of the study appear in the Sept. 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Spouses reported lower confidence than patients in their ability to manage the illness, and more uncertainty about the illness. Patients also reported more social support than did spouses.
Doctors, nurses and even family and frien
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University of Michigan Health System