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Male Partners of Breast Cancer Patients May Suffer Depression
Date:9/27/2010

The findings suggest that the men may be stressed by factors such as intense caregiving and the risk of losing their partner, said psychologist Wendy G. Lichtenthal, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

The men may be suffering from the pain of loss of the person to whom they're most attached and "challenges to their sense of identity as a partner and changes in their daily schedules and patterns now that their domestic partner is gone," Lichtenthal said.

Prigerson said there is another factor that may play a role, called "emotional contagion," which is the spread of a person's emotions to a significant other. "The wife with breast cancer may be vulnerable to depression, and this would spread to her husband."

Lichtenthal pointed out that "a study of this magnitude is significant because it highlights the importance of family-centered care. Patients' partners should be in the medical team's line of sight."

That's especially important because the partners at greatest risk for severe depression may avoid care or become overburdened by other responsibilities, she said. "This is why creating awareness about the increased risk for severe depression among partners is important."

More information

For more on caregiving, go to the National Alliance for Caregiving.

SOURCES: Holly G. Prigerson, Ph.D., director, Center for Psycho-oncology & Palliative Care Research, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston; Wendy G. Lichtenthal, Ph.D., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City; Sept. 27, 2010, Cancer, online


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