Fulfilling relationships can lead to better health outcomes for breast cancer survivors
Breast cancer survivors in happy, healthy romantic relationships tend to see better health outcomes than those who don’t, according to a new study from The Ohio State University.
The findings are based on a study of 139 breast cancer survivors with an average age of 55. The women filled out surveys rating their satisfaction within their relationship with their partner; the participants also provided blood samples that allowed researchers to analyze the extent of inflammation in their bodies. Researchers found those who were happiest in their relationships reported the least stress, as well as the lowest levels of inflammation; those who were the least fulfilled had the most stress and elevated levels of inflammation.
Keeping inflammation levels low is particularly important for breast cancer survivors, since too much inflammation can lead to a return of the cancer or other health problems, such as heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, and arthritis.
“It’s important for survivors, when they’re going through this uncertain time, to feel comfortable with their partners and feel cared for and understood,” explained Rosie Shrout, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral scholar in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at the university. “Our findings suggest that this close partnership can boost their bond as a couple and also promote survivors’ health even during a very stressful time, when they’re dealing with cancer.
“Some survivors might need help connecting with their partners during a stressful time, so that means it’s important for part of their screening and treatment to take the relationship into account and include a reference to couples counselling when appropriate,” Shrout said.
The findings can provide some guidance to single women too, she said.
“The broader message for a breast cancer survivor who is not married is to seek support in other relationships. In general, one thing that happens when people are stressed is we tend to isolate ourselves, so seeking support when we’re stressed is one of the more beneficial things that people can do.”
The study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.