Living With Cancer: Collateral Damage

“When I was invited to attend a prostate cancer group called ‘Us Too’ in my town, its members were meeting in a private room in our public library. About eight men, some accompanied by their wives, had great difficulty communicating their discomfort about urine leaks and diapers. They wanted to know what strategies my gynecological cancer group used to talk about sexual issues. To alleviate their daily problems, the participants needed professional help that I could not furnish.

“Sexual dysfunction and incontinence in prostate cancer survivors underscore a quandary that shadows oncology. As we all realize, procedures that prolong lives also impair them. Yet cancer patients who must forfeit quality of life to gain quantity of life rarely receive adequate warning before treatment or guidance afterward.”


Living With Cancer: In and Out of the Closet

“In a memoir, ‘The Summer of Her Baldness,’ the visual artist and theorist Catherine Lord finds ‘the cancer closet . . . at least as complicated as the sexuality closet’: ‘You can never get entirely out and you can never get entirely back in.’

“Does my deployment of careful costumes to conceal scars, hair loss, an ostomy bag, a port and other signs of treatment put me in a closet like the one in which many lesbians and gay men once felt they needed to be confined?

“Only a few decades ago, both homosexuals and cancer patients frequently needed to lie about their lives — to keep their jobs and their social standing. Happily, physicians today no longer define homosexuality as a sickness. But cancer is a disease that continues to afflict one of four Americans. And it can still be accompanied by a sense of shame and with economic as well as physical and emotional liabilities.

“While coping with cancer, I often feel like an impersonator of my former self. In a number of contexts and for various reasons, I am a sick person trying to appear healthy. While the contest between destructive cells and aggressive therapies persists, it seems strategic to pretend to be normal. All sorts of props — a wig, make-up, hats, billowing pants and shirts — provide a semblance of what I used to look like.”


Worse Anxiety/Depression Symptoms in Patients Adopting ‘Helper’ Role in Breast Cancer Internet Support Group

“In a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Lepore et al found that patients assigned a helper role in a breast cancer Internet support group had worse anxiety/depression symptoms after completion of the intervention than those not assigned a helper role…

“In the study, 183 women diagnosed in the past 36 months with nonmetastatic breast cancer who reported elevated anxiety or depression were randomly assigned to a standard Internet support group condition (n = 95) or an enhanced prosocial condition (n = 88). Both conditions included professionally facilitated live 90-minute weekly chat sessions for 6 weeks and access to a discussion board…

“The investigators concluded: ‘Despite the successful manipulation of supportive behaviors, the [prosocial Internet support group] did not produce better mental health outcomes in distressed survivors of breast cancer relative to [a standard Internet support group]. The prosocial manipulation may have inadvertently constrained women from expressing their needs openly, and thus, they may not have had their needs fully met in the group.’ ”


Online Forums Offer Unique Resource to Cancer Patients, Researchers

Social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and online discussion forums, have become important resources for cancer patients. These platforms also offer cancer researchers valuable insight into how patients are affected by cancer and cancer treatments. A recent study analyzed threads discussing treatment on online colorectal cancer forums. The most common themes were side effects, treatment response, and impact on patients’ lives and emotions. While many patients expressed anxiety about their treatment, often due to uncertainty about effectiveness and risks, they noted that lack of treatment would cause even greater anxiety. The most frequently expressed emotions were hope and appreciation for treatment. These narratives show that the impact of cancer treatment goes beyond efficacy and toxicity, and illustrate its effect on the emotional wellbeing of patients.


Married Cancer Patients More Likely to Survive

Married people are 20% less likely to die from cancer, a recent study found. Married patients were less likely to be diagnosed with an advanced stage of the disease and more likely to undergo the best treatment plan for their disease state. Moreover, even at the same cancer stage and undergoing the same treatment, married patients were significantly less likely to die. For several cancers, including prostate and colorectal cancer, the effect of marriage on survival was greater than that of chemotherapy. Several factors may explain these findings. Spouses may remind each other to get regular medical check-ups and encourage each other to stick to their cancer treatments. Social support may also alleviate depression, lower stress, and strengthen the immune system.


Married Cancer Patients More Likely to Survive

Married people are 20% less likely to die from cancer, a recent study found. Married patients were less likely to be diagnosed with an advanced stage of the disease and more likely to undergo the best treatment plan for their disease state. Moreover, even at the same cancer stage and undergoing the same treatment, married patients were significantly less likely to die. For several cancers, including prostate and colorectal cancer, the effect of marriage on survival was greater than that of chemotherapy. Several factors may explain these findings. Spouses may remind each other to get regular medical check-ups and encourage each other to stick to their cancer treatments. Social support may also alleviate depression, lower stress, and strengthen the immune system.


Married Cancer Patients More Likely to Survive

Married people are 20% less likely to die from cancer, a recent study found. Married patients were less likely to be diagnosed with an advanced stage of the disease and more likely to undergo the best treatment plan for their disease state. Moreover, even at the same cancer stage and undergoing the same treatment, married patients were significantly less likely to die. For several cancers, including prostate and colorectal cancer, the effect of marriage on survival was greater than that of chemotherapy. Several factors may explain these findings. Spouses may remind each other to get regular medical check-ups and encourage each other to stick to their cancer treatments. Social support may also alleviate depression, lower stress, and strengthen the immune system.