Marriage Might Help Cancer Survival

Here’s an important find on surviving cancer. Research out of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have found that being married might significantly improve your chances of surviving the most dreaded of all diagnoses, cancer. For singles who may be reading, don’t despair, there is good news for you on this front as well.

The study appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and included over 700,000 healthy people who had been diagnosed with one of the ten most commonly fatal forms of cancers in the U.S. In case you’re wondering, as we were, what those cancers are, we’ll list them here – lung, colorectal, breast, pancreatic, prostate, liver/bile duct, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, head and neck, ovarian and esophageal. The team controlled for variables that might affect cancer occurrence and survival, things like socioeconomic status, age, race, sex and level of education.

They saw that those who were married were more apt to find their disease early, get treatments that offer the potential for a complete cure, and thus live longer. In fact, the team saw a 20% reduction in deaths for those who were married compared to the single (by choice, widowed, separated or divorced) patient.

That’s a benefit that’s better than several of the chemotherapies used to treat cancer!

The study senior author, Dr. Paul Nguyen finds this pretty astonishing, and believes that there’s something about the type of support you get in a good marriage that leads to better survival. And while the link between marriage and cancer survival was strong, it was not a direct cause of better survival among the patients.

Why do marrieds do better? It’s likely that spouses stay up to date on their partner’s health, especially in terms of making sure they get the recommended cancer screenings at the right ages. There’s no one to nag a single person in quite the same way as a spouse can. We know that getting those screenings is key, they find cancers in their earliest, most treatable stage.

For the singles, 17% were more likely to have a cancer that had moved beyond its original site, known as metastatic cancer. This makes treatment tougher and survival less assured. The unmarried patients in the research were also 53% less likely to get appropriate therapies, in part because the information given to cancer patients can be overwhelming. Having someone who can hear (and remember) all the facts, figures and options and help you make judgments and decisions that are best for you appears to be rather valuable in terms of surviving cancer.

Continues below…

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Marriage Help Cancer Survival Continued…

The benefit of having a spouse at your side continues during cancer treatment the researchers found. These treatments can often be uncomfortable, painful even, and tough to handle day in, day out. A spouse offers help, support and encouragement in these tough times; helping the patient go on, get through.

The findings of this most recent study support those from 2005 that found older married women with breast cancer had a lower mortality risk than their unmarried counterparts.

The good news for single people is that anyone close to you… best friend, parent or sibling or another loved one can fill this role. This may be especially true for a man who has cancer, as they seem to benefit more from marriage than women do.

To your good health,