Being married or having a domestic partner significantly improves quality of life for prostate cancer patients following treatment, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. Partnered men reported better psychosocial and spiritual well-being, suffered fewer adverse effects from treatment, and had less fear and anxiety about their cancer coming back than did their single counterparts, the study found. The research appears in the July 1 issue of the journal Cancer, but is being published May 23 on the journal's Web site.
The researchers focused on a severely disadvantaged group of prostate cancer patients in the study--low-income and uninsured or underinsured men enrolled in IMPACT, a state-funded public assistance program created at UCLA that provides free prostate cancer care. The study participants--211 married or partnered men and 80 single men--answered numerous quality of life questions in three questionnaires sent out every six months for 18 months. The questions assessed mental health, spirituality, stress created by urinary function or dysfunction, and adverse affects caused by their treatment.
The partnered men were less depressed and less bothered by emotional problems, such as anxiety and fear about disease recurrence. They were less upset about urinary problems, and less distressed by the nausea, fatigue, and pain that can follow cancer treatment. They also reported a higher spirituality than their single counterparts, said lead researcher John Gore. Doctors treating prostate cancer patients should be aware of a patient's marital or relationship status so they can encourage those who may need help to attend support group meetings, Gore added.
"Clinicians caring for prostate cancer patients need to address coping and social support mechanisms in order to encourage the beneficial aspects of partnership and overcome the detrimental affects of being single," the study concludes.
Prostate cancer will strike 232,090 men this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Of those, 30,350 are expected to die. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men.