Researchers at the University of California San Diego examined data from 60,000 people diagnosed with various forms of blood cancers and found that those who were married had a 20 percent better chance of surviving their disease compared to those who were single.
The data used for the study were taken from California Cancer Registry, which were gathered from 2000 to 2009. They featured individuals with lymphoma, multiple myeloma and leukemia.
Study co-author Prof. Matthew Wieduwilt said the findings could be the result of having a support system for these people.
He explained that single patients tend to be sicker or at the later stages of their illnesses. These individuals don’t have someone else at home who would nag at them to have themselves checked out.
This is often the case for single men because women often have more support despite being single.
Those who are married or have a family, on the other hand, benefit from the support provided to them by their loved ones, making them stick to their treatment such as undergoing chemo therapy or taking their regular medications.
Wieduwilt said these individuals are also motivated to seek medical care more than their single counterparts likely because they know they have something to live for.
He added that their findings point to a need for health services to focus more on providing care for single individuals, serving as their surrogate spouse.
Wieduwilt’s colleague, Prof. Maria Elena Martinez, said that doctors should consider the single status of a cancer patient as a warning sign. They should find out about the support the patient has at home as part of their assessment.
Adrienne Betteley, head of the health and social care services at Macmillan Cancer Support, pointed out that undergoing cancer diagnosis can often leave some patients feeling very lonely.
This can negatively impact the lives of these individuals, sometimes causing them to skip their meals or attend much needed medical appointments alone. Some patients may even refuse to seek important treatments altogether.
However, this scenario can also happen to patients who are not living alone. Betteley said even individuals who have a partner or a spouse and have a lot of social contact with other people can still experience the impact of loneliness.
“That’s why it’s so vital for us to reach out to people affected by cancer, even those surrounded by family and loved ones,” Betteley said. “The smallest gesture can make such a big difference.”
The findings of the University of California San Diego study were presented at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.