Shrout : Psychological, Physical, and Relational Health in Breast Cancer Survivors and their Partners
Psychological, Physical, and Relational Health in Breast Cancer Survivors and their Partners
M. Rosie Shrout
Elliot Friedman, Purdue University
Kathy Miller, Indiana University School of Medicine and Comprehensive Cancer Center
James Tisdale, Purdue University
Rasheedah Adisa, Purdue University
Breast cancer survivors who experience psychological and physical symptoms well after treatment ends have an increased risk for comorbid disease development, reduced quality of life, and premature mortality. However, survivors in satisfying marriages report lower stress and better health than those in dissatisfying marriages. Research is needed to identify how survivors’ marriages provide these health benefits across the cancer continuum. Including both survivors and their partners’ perspectives can identify key pathways connecting relationships to better health.
This study examined survivors’ and their partners’ psychological, physical, and relational health. Breast cancer survivors (stage 0-III) and their partners (n=34 individuals, 17 couples) completed an online survey. Questionnaires assessed their cancer-related communication, relationship distress, and psychological and physical symptoms.
Survivors reported poorer sleep quality and greater fatigue than their partners. Survivors also reported disclosing more thoughts, feelings, and information about cancer compared to their partners. For both survivors and partners, feeling more satisfied with each other’s cancer-related discussions and reporting lower relational distress correlated with fewer physical symptoms, sleep problems, fatigue, and psychological distress.
Breast cancer survivors experienced greater sleep problems and fatigue than their partners, and those reporting greater relational distress had even greater psychological and physical health symptoms. However, for both survivors and their partners, feeling more satisfied with how often they talked about survivorship and the cancer experience was associated with better psychological and physical health. This research demonstrates the health benefits and importance of open communication for both survivors and their partners across the cancer continuum.
Translational/Human Health Impact:
Open communication and talking about cancer-related thoughts, feelings, and information can promote better psychological and physical health in both survivors and partners. These findings highlight the importance of screening for relational distress and enhancing both survivors’ and partners’ communication. This study identified intervention points for couple education and cancer programming across survivorship.