A recent research article exposed an interesting relationship between marriage and survival of cancer. It determined that married patients with the 10 most deadly cancers had on average a 20% increase in survival. At first glance I thought this article was a hoax, potentially even driven by the wedding dress or diamond ring industries. How can a marital bond increase your survival? After reconsideration (and a little coaxing from my wife), I believe this study and think it should have a great impact on the healthcare system.
I guess the biggest question is why? Why does being married give you a survival advantage? The authors point to many possibilities including earlier detection, psychological well-being and physiological improvements. To me it seems simpler than that, my wife is good for my health. I don’t know about every spouse but my wife is an awesome person. There is really no one that looks after me better and worries about me more. In a healthcare setting, having a second voice can get your point across better, a second set of ears can understand the options more effectively and a friendly face can cut through the fear. To me, the spouse has an important role to play in a cancer patient’s treatment, one that is not easy but promotes better healthcare. It’s weird to think of marriage as a good lifestyle choice but in the case of cancer it just might be.
So what about those people diagnosed without a ring? One issue young adult cancer survivors face is dating and relationships after a diagnosis. So is there a way to gain the advantage of being married without actually tying the knot? I think the healthcare system has an opportunity to imitate this advantage by promoting an informative and caring environment. Psychological support, consistent screening and social support may be the key to unlocking this advantage. These three areas are often less emphasized in comparison to the treatment and may have a greater impact than just mental well-being. The fact that we see this discrepancy shows that we have a long way to go in providing appropriate care outside of treatment.
Timothy Buckland is a 27 year old three time testicular cancer survivor. He has his Master’s degree in Biochemistry where he studied pro-growth signalling in breast cancer. He currently works at the Canadian Cancer Society as a Revenue Development Coordinator and Young Adult Cancer specialist. “My goal here at CKN as the Young Adult Editor is to create connections between personal experiences and allow healthcare staff to see some of the distinct needs this group has. By sharing experiences of a wide range of young adults we will all grow and learn from each other.”