GRACE :: Coping with Cancer / Social Work


Dr Pennell

An Argument for the Sanctity of Marriage, but Beware: Separated Cancer Patients Have Poorer Survival


It has been a while since I’ve posted here, and it is nice to be back again! I have been compiling a list of some interesting topics (to me) for future posts, so hopefully we can have some good discussions in the comments section. This particular topic is not specific to lung cancer, but certainly applies to lung cancer patients as much as any other malignancy so I think it will still be of interest.

For many years there has been a consistent observation made among cancer patients that married individuals tend to live significantly longer than do unmarried individuals. This observation holds true across different types of cancer including prostate, breast, and lung. For some reason, the warm support of the spouse at your side seems to be a broadly positive prognostic factor, in addition to the other numerous benefits…


There are any number of reasons for exactly why this might be so. Patients who are married tend to have better financial resources and also have better social support, two elements that independently seem to predict for patients doing better. Marriage also frequently results in children (although marriage not required), which can provide additional support at trying times for elderly patients. There are also reasons to think that patients who are NOT married may have problems that contribute to poor outcomes including psychological problems such as depression, substance abuse, and poor health for reasons other than their cancer. Loneliness is a big problem for my unmarried, elderly patients and I can see first hand that their lives are much harder during treatment than those with big families at their sides.

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