Credits: REUTERS/PASCAL LAUENER
In a University of Maryland study, married patients with locally advanced lung cancer were more likely to survive longer after treatment than single patients.
The researchers looked at 168 cases over 10 years. The patients were all getting radiation treatment for a common form of lung cancer.
They found 33% of married patients were still alive after three years compared to 10% of single patients. The effect seemed to be stronger in women. Married women had the best three-year survival rate at 46%, while single men had the lowest at 3%.
"Marital status appears to be an important independent predictor of survival in patients with locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer," lead author Dr. Elizabeth Nichols said in a press release.
"The reason for this is unclear, but our findings suggest the importance of social support in managing and treating our lung cancer patients. Patients may need help with day-to-day activities, getting to treatment and making sure they receive proper followup care."
A Norwegian study released last year also found that single men are more likely to die from cancer than married men.
If the support offered by a spouse is, indeed, the key factor in this equation, the health-care system needs to offer better support to all patients, Nichols said.
"We believe that better supportive care and support mechanisms for cancer patients can have a greater impact on increasing survival than many new cancer therapy techniques. Not only do we need to continue to focus on finding new drugs and cancer therapies, but also on ways to better support our cancer patients," Nichols said.
Dr. E. Albert Reece, vice-president of medical affairs at the University of Maryland, echoed that statement.
"We must figure out ways to help all of our cancer patients live longer, with a better quality of life, regardless of their marital status," he said.