COLUMBUS, Ohio Breast cancer patients who have a poor relationship with their spouse may face a more difficult road to recovery than would other women, according to a new study.
Researchers found that, over five years, patients in distressed marriages had higher levels of stress, less physical activity, slower recovery and more symptoms and signs of illness than did similar patients who reported good marriages.
"The quality of the marital relationship may not be the first thing women worry about when they get a cancer diagnosis. But it may have a significant impact on how they cope physically and emotionally," said Hae-Chung Yang, co-author of the study and research associate in psychology at Ohio State University.
"Our results suggest that the increases in stress and other problems that come with a distressed marital relationship can have real health consequences, and lead to a poorer recovery from cancer."
Yang noted that the advantages for women with good relationships held true even though the researchers took into account the patients' depression levels, cancer stage, treatment, and other factors that could have influenced the results.
The study appears online now, and will be published in a future issue of the journal Cancer. Yang conducted the study with Tammy Schuler, a doctoral student at Ohio State.
The study involved 100 women who have participated in the long-running Stress and Immunity Breast Cancer Project at Ohio State. All of the women were married or cohabitating at the time they entered the study and remained so during the five years they were followed.
Participants completed a questionnaire that measured the quality of the relationship they had with their spouse every year for the five-year study period. The majority of participants reported very little change in marital quality over the course of the study and, based on these results, they were split into two groups thos
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Ohio State University