Harvard Research Says Marriage is Linked to Better Cancer Outcomes

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bigstock-Elderly-couple-holding-hands-a-45695839“People who are married when diagnosed with cancer live longer than those who are not,” report researchers at Harvard-affiliated Dana Farber Cancer Institute in September.

“Our data suggests that marriage can have a significant health impact for patients with cancer, and this was consistent among every cancer that we reviewed,” said Ayal Aizer, chief resident of the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program and the paper’s first author.

They found that in comparison with married patients, unmarried cancer patients, including those who were widowed, were 17% more likely to have metastatic cancer and 53% less likely to receive the appropriate therapy.

Researchers conducted the analysis with 700,000+ participants who were diagnosed with cancer. The 4 year study took place from 2004 to 2008 and focused on the top leading causes of cancerous death in the United States: breast, lung, colorectal pancreatic, ovarian, prostate, esophageal, head and neck, pancreatic, liver/bile duct, and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The data was adjusted to account for a number of demographic factors such as age, race, sex, education, and median household income.

“We suspect that social support from spouses is what’s driving the striking improvement in survival. Spouses often accompany patients on their visits and make sure they understand the recommendations and complete all their treatments.”

It’s no surprise that the emotional support from friends and family can yield powerful results. Life is a balancing act, and having a loved one by your side can certainly provide comfort that you’re not in this alone. “(This study has) reminded us of the power of human attachment in showing the contribution of marital status to survival,” (Journal of Clinic Oncology). Showing support and providing that emotional balance may just give a patient the courage and empowerment they need to survive.

“We don’t just see our study as an affirmation of marriage, but rather it should send a message to anyone who has a friend or a loved one with cancer: By being there for that person and helping them navigate their appointments and make it through all their treatments, you can make a real difference to that person’s outcome,” said the study’s author, Paul Nguyen. In the words of the 16th century axiom,”To cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always,” (anonymous).

To read the complete study findings, visit here.

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