How Cancer Affects More Than Just the Patient

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Sometimes in health it’s the thing that you don’t think about that sneaks up and causes major disruptions. While a person is focused on their partner who has breast cancer, for instance, certain issues might be materializing.

That is what a new study is warning after finding that men whose partners have breast cancer are at greater risk of developing mood disorders. Mood disorders so severe that they have to go to the hospitalization. Published online in Cancer, the study shows the value of staying aware of the mental health of a cancer patient’s loved ones.

Diseases can compromise the mental health not only of affected patients, but also of their closest relatives as well. Partners can develop high stress and also be deprived of emotional, social and economic support. A few small studies have suggested that partners of cancer patients often develop major psychosocial problems. But what about severe depression?

A team just analyzed how frequently male partners of women with breast cancer are hospitalized with disorders such as major depression and bipolar disease. The data were from over one million men with no history of hospitalization for an “affective disorder.” They had lived with the same partner for at least five years.

Over a 13-year period, 20,538 female partners developed breast cancer. Of these corresponding men, 180 were hospitalized with an affective disorder. Men whose partners were diagnosed with breast cancer were about 40% more likely to suffer through this than men whose partners were cancer-free.

The risk was higher with the more severe the breast cancer. Men whose partners experienced a relapse were also more likely to develop an affective disorder than those whose partners remained cancer-free. Men whose partners died after breast cancer had a 3.6-fold increased risk of developing an affective disorder compared with men whose partners survived.

Researchers suggest that partners of cancer patients be screened to help prevent this “devastating consequence of cancer.” Any partner of a cancer patient should be careful about where their mental patterns take them, as stress, worry and feeling lost can take their toll. Speak to your doctor about steps to help yourself.