Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
FEBRUARY 08, 2017
Today's contribution is a study from DFCI that indicates that the husbands of young breast cancer patients experience anxiety that often persists for years after the diagnosis. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, and I am quite certain that the findings could also refer to husbands of other women with cancer and wives of husbands with cancer.
We all know that the patient's anxiety often continues for a long time, so why should his/her spouse feel differently? I do often hear from women that their husbands function as Chief Cheerleader and Optimist, always telling them they will be fine. This is sometimes encouraging and sometimes infuriating. And I am betting that, no matter what the words, the husband is actually worrying, too. To be blunt, the spouse of a cancer patient worries both about losing his love, but also about managing afterwards. Especially in the group studied here, many husbands were no doubt anxious about having to continue to be the breadwinner and to take on all household and childcare responsibilities. And, when my propensity to indulge in black humor takes over, I sometimes add that the spouse does not get out of dying sometime, still has that to worry about, too.
Here is the start from Medscape and a link to read more:
She's Young, Has Breast Cancer, and He's Anxious
Nearly half (42%) of the partners of young breast cancer survivors
(diagnosed at age ≤40 years) experience anxiety, even years after their
partner's diagnosis, according to a new survey of 289 such partners.
The partners were overwhelming male (98%), and those who used "less constructive" and "maladaptive" coping behaviors were twice as likely to experience anxiety as their peers in the survey, reported lead author, Nancy Borstelmann, MPH, MSW, director of social work at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts.
Maladaptive coping includes behaviors such as emotional withdrawal, denial, drinking alcohol, blaming, and aggression, said Borstelmann, adding that this behavior was "strongly" associated with higher levels of anxiety.
The findings reinforce the need for greater caregiver support, she said. "Caregivers' mental health and how they cope needs attention," Borstelmann said at a presscast that preceded the 2017
Cancer Survivorship Symposium, to be held later this week in San Diego, California, where the study will be presented.
"When partners of breast cancer patients take care of themselves, it really does benefit everyone," said Merry Jennifer Markham, MD, from the University of Florida, Gainesville, who moderated the presscast and is an American Society of Clinical Oncology expert.