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Support Programs for spouses with Cancer

Support Programs for spouses with Cancer

 -- When a man has prostate cancer, his wife may cope better with cancer http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/" object_type="" keywordsetid="6466" keywordid="24836" externalid="28D4BA6B118C4013" directive="friendlyurl" crosslinkid="31404" chronic_id="" style="font-size: 1em; color: rgb(10, 62, 105);">stress by participating in a support program.

That news appears in today's early online edition of Cancer.

The researchers included Laurel Northouse, PhD, RN, of the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

In a previous study, Northouse and colleagues studied the http://www.webmd.com/cancer/news/20070921/cancer-affects-patients-spouses-too" object_type="" directive="friendlyurl" chronic_id="" style="font-size: 1em; color: rgb(10, 62, 105);">emotional toll that prostate cancer takes on patients and spouses.

They found that the patients' wives reported as much distress -- and less social support and confidence in their coping abilities -- as the patients themselves.

Now, Northouse's team is studying solutions for those stresses.

Cancer and Marriage

Northouse's latest study includes 235 prostate cancer patients -- most of whom were newly diagnosed with prostate cancer -- and their wives.

The researchers split the couples into two groups.

One group took part in a four-month family support program that fostered family involvement, optimistic attitude, effective coping, uncertainty reduction, and symptom management.

As part of the program, counselors visited the couples at home three times for 90 minutes per visit and called the couples twice for discussions that lasted for half an hour.

For comparison, the other couples didn't participate in the family support program.

Curbing Cancer Stress

The patients and their wives completed surveys about their experiences with and emotions about prostate cancer four times: at the study's start and four months, eight months, and a year later.

At the four-month check, the wives in the support group reported higher quality of life, better communication, less uncertainty, less hopelessness, and less symptom distress than those in the comparison group.

Some of the positive results lasted beyond the end of the yearlong study.

Support for Spouses

The need to support cancer patients is widely known, and it's the topic of a http://www.webmd.com/cancer/news/20071023/cancer-treatment-support-crucial" object_type="" directive="friendlyurl" chronic_id="" style="font-size: 1em; color: rgb(10, 62, 105);">recent report from the Institute of Medicine.

Northouse and colleagues write that in their study, prostate cancer patients "obtained benefits" from the support program, but "the effects were far greater for their spouses."

That may be because the wives were at least as distressed as the patients and didn't get support unless they happened to be assigned to the researchers' support program.

"At a minimum, the findings suggest that spouses of men with prostate cancer need to be included in programs of care," the researchers conclude.