Research published in Sept. 2013 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology show that patients with cancer who were married at the time of diagnosis live markedly longer compared to unmarried patients. The results, based on a large retrospective study of the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database, also report that married patients are more likely to be diagnosed with earlier-stage disease and much more likely to receive the appropriate therapy.
Compared to unmarried patients, married patience were 17% less likely to have metastatic disease at diagnosis, 53% more likely to receive appropriate therapy, and 20% less likely to die of their cancer.
This study is the first to show a consistent and significant benefit of marriage on survival among each of the ten leading causes of cancer-related death in the United States – lung, colorectal, breast, pancreatic, prostate, liver/bile duct, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, head and neck, ovarian, and esophageal cancer.
These findings add to the growing body of literature that suggests that marriage and, more broadly, social support helps patients cope with and survive cancer. Patients who are married tend to have better social support networks in place. Patients who are not married, however, are encouraged to reach out to family and friends, cancer and faith-based support groups, social workers, or their doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to obtain the social support that they need, including assistance with decision-making, coping strategies, supportive and palliative care, and management of depression and anxiety.
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