New Cure for Cancer: Marriage

Sounds a little too hokey to be true but a recent study of 700,000 people with the most deadly forms of cancer in the U.S. has found that "patients who were married were more likely to detect their disease early, receive potentially curable treatments and live longer," according to cnn.com.

Even more unbelievable -- researchers found that those who were married were 20% less likely to die than those who weren't -- almost more than the benefit chemotherapy provides, cnn.com reports.

“It is pretty astonishing,” cnn.com quotes Dr. Paul Nguyen, the study’s senior author. “There’s something about the social support that you get within a marriage that leads to better survival.”

Now before you think of rushing off to the altar just in case, study results "did not show that marriage directly causes better survival among cancer patients." The study simply examined associations between marital status and cancer outcomes.

It's probably not too hard to figure out why this happens.  If you're married, there's a good chance you stay on top of your partner's health (though not in my family; my husband won't allow it, he doesn't believe in doctors, and when I was found to have breast cancer, he called me a hypochondrac for getting a mammogram in the first place).

"You’re going to nag your wife to go get her mammograms. You’re going to nag your husband to go get his colonoscopy,” Nguyen told cnn.com. “If you’re on your own, nobody’s going to nag you.”
In the study, people who were not with a partner were "17% more likely to have cancer that had spread beyond its original site."  Unmarried patients in the study were also 53% less likely to receive appropriate therapies. Nguyen, who is a radiation oncologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said spouses can help patients get the treatments they need.
The perks of being married seem to continue as patients undergo their cancer treatments, which can often be painful and difficult to endure, Nguyen told cnn.com. The results also support findings from a 2005 study showing that older married women with breast cancer had a lower risk of mortality after diagnosis than their unmarried counterparts.
So, are you destined to die from cancer if you live alone?  Certainly not.  But in the unlikely case you are diagnosed with it, it helps to have a strong social network of friends, family, and colleagues to help you get through it.   
 



 

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