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Marriage Improves Cancer Patients' Odds of Beating Disease, Says Study; May Even Be Better Than Chemotherapy

Marriage Improves Cancer Patients' Odds of Beating Disease, Says Study; May Even Be Better Than Chemotherapy

In a classic Hallmark moment, Jason Stevens and Alexia Drummond kiss at their wedding. 'The Ultimate Life' has been condemned as an empty 'feel good' film and praised as a family-friendly thought-pic about priorities. | Photo Credit: Jennifer Willingham

Married cancer patients are more likely to live longer than those who are unmarried, according to a comprehensive new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on Monday.

"Even after adjusting for known confounders, unmarried patients are at significantly higher risk of presentation with metastatic cancer, undertreatment, and death resulting from their cancer," noted the conclusion of the study presented in an abstract in the Journal.

According to the abstract, the study highlights the "potentially significant impact that social support can have on cancer detection, treatment, and survival." And some experts have even dubbed the effect of marriage on cancer as equal to or more powerful than chemotherapy.

For the study, researchers analyzed 734,889 people from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program diagnosed with cancer between 2004 and 2008, according to Medical News Today. Researchers also narrowed down the study to look at the 10 leading cancers that result in death in the U.S.: Lung; Colorectal; Breast; Pancreatic; Prostate; Liver/bile duct; Non-Hodgkin lymphoma; Head and neck; Ovarian and Esophageal.

"When you have a spouse who is present when the patient is diagnosed, they are an invested party and they are going to more than likely make sure the patient goes to the doctor, that they get the necessary treatments,'' said Dr. Ayal A. Aizer, chief resident of the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program and the study's first author in a New York Times report.

"We don't think there's something intrinsic about people who are married, but we do think it's the support marriage is providing that makes a difference," he added.

"…These incontrovertible data come from the 10 leading cancers, apply to both men and women, and create profound implications for our models of cancer care. Strikingly, the benefits of marriage are comparable to or greater than anti-cancer treatment with chemotherapy," noted an editorial by David W. Kissane, Monash University, Victoria, Australia; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY. "Aizer et al have reminded us of the power of human attachment in showing the contribution of marital status to survival. They stress why medicine ought not to be governed by money but by humanistic, culturally sensitive, and comprehensive care," added the editorial.

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