Women carry larger emotional burden than men when coping with cancer

March 2nd, 2008 - 5:01 pm ICT by admin  


Washington, March 2 (ANI): Researchers have highlighted the role of gender while coping with cancer, by finding that in a couple where one of the partners is diagnosed with the disease, women are more severely distressed than men, regardless of who among them is the patient.

For more than twenty-years, researchers have gathered anecdotal and statistical evidence that has been inconclusive and even contradictory as to who carries the greater psychological burden in a couple struggling with the diagnosis of cancer, the patient or the spouse.

The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the University Medical Center Groningen, in the Netherlands, conducted the exhaustive study that analysed the findings of 43 studies from around the world that assessed distress in couples coping with cancer.

It is the gender that maters. Past studies focused on who has the cancer, not gender, and that explains the inconsistency in the findings, said James C. Coyne MD, Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, a co-author of the published study.

In practical terms, breast cancer patients are going to be, on average, more distressed than their husbands; but the wives of prostate cancer patients are going to be, on average, more distressed than their husbands, said lead study author, Mariet Hagedoorn, Professor of health Psychology at the University Medical Center Groningen.

Surprisingly, when researchers looked at anxiety in the general population or in patients recruited from waiting rooms of primary care practices, they found that the level of distress in couples facing the diagnosis of cancer was only moderate in comparison.

Only a minority of cancer patients suffer clinically significant distress. The myth that all cancer patients are distressed gets in the way of getting the proper attention to those patients who do become significantly distressed and who could benefit from a clinical intervention, said Professor Hagedoorn.

The study is published in the Psychological Bulletin. (ANI)

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