In Sickness and in Health by R Mandanah Stockton

A study published in the September 23rd issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that cancer patients who are single are less likely to survive than those who are married.

The research team analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute on patients who were diagnosed with a malignancy between 2004 and 2008; after removing statistics that could influence outcomes they discovered that in general, married cancer survivors live longer than single patients do.

Additionally, single patients were 17% more likely to eventually suffer from metastatic cancer and they were 53% LESS likely to seek out the appropriate treatment they needed for their particular illnesses.

The results of the current study support earlier research conducted in 2009 — at least, if you’re male.  The 2009 study was gender specific and focused more on who was more likely to experience spousal abandonment after a cancer diagnosis; the team determined that seriously ill female patients were 6 times more likely to be separated or divorced than men were.

More specifically, women diagnosed with cancer or other life threatening condition were 21% more likely to be divorced compared with men, who were only 3% more likely to be abandoned by their partners.

Dr. Mark Chamberlain, one of the authors of the 2009 study explained that this is, at least in part, because women are more nurturing; wives will rise to the occasion more often than not.  Husbands of ill wives, ironically, feel emotionally abandoned by their spouses, leaving them more isolated as time progresses.

Regardless of gender, abandoned patients were more likely to be prescribed anti-depressants and less likely to participate in clinical trials that could extend their lives.  Clearly having someone on your team is especially important.  Dr. Paul Ngyen, lead author of the current study urges oncologists to watch their single patients more closely and to encourage them to seek out much needed support.

Spouses of patients also need support, especially if they are suddenly thrust into the role of caregiver during their partners’ convalescence; social support is imperative because caregivers desperately need care themselves.

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