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Stress about wife's breast cancer can harm a man's health
Date:4/16/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio Caring for a wife with breast cancer can have a measurable negative effect on men's health, even years after the cancer diagnosis and completion of treatment, according to recent research.

Men who reported the highest levels of stress in relation to their wives' cancer were at the highest risk for physical symptoms and weaker immune responses, the study showed.

The researchers sought to determine the health effects of a recurrence of breast cancer on patients' male caregivers, but found that how stressed the men were about the cancer had a bigger influence on their health than did the current status of their wives' disease.

The findings imply that clinicians caring for breast cancer patients could help their patients by considering the caregivers' health as well, the researchers say.

This care could include screening caregivers for stress symptoms and encouraging them to participate in stress management, relaxation or other self-care activities, said Sharla Wells-Di Gregorio, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University.

"If you care for the caregiver, your patient gets better care, too," said Kristen Carpenter, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Ohio State and a study co-author.

The research is published in a recent issue of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Thirty-two men participated in the study, including 16 whose wives had experienced a breast cancer recurrence an average of eight months before the study began and approximately five years after the initial cancer diagnosis. These men were matched with 16 men whose wives' cancers were similar, but who remained disease-free about six years after the initial diagnosis.

The participants completed several questionnaires measuring levels of psychological stress related to their wives' cancers, physical symptoms related to stress, and the degr
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Contact: Sharla Wells-Di Gregorio
sharla.wells@osumc.edu
614-293-8898
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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