Another review from the ASCO conference. I found this fascinating.
Apparently, research has shown that cancer patients with solid tumors have a higher Overall Survival when they are married, compared to unmarried patients. So researchers asked, is the same thing true for patients with blood cancers?
The answer was presented in "Impact of marital status on the survival of patients with hematologic malignancies reported to the California Cancer Registry." Researchers looked at records of over 58,000 patients in California with blood cancer, diagnosed between 2000 and 2009. Of course, Follicular Lymphoma patients were included.
The researchers did some statistical analysis on all those records, and determined how marriage status affected Overall Survival, adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, treatment, insurance status, and
neighborhood socioeconomic status.
In almost every category, married blood cancer patients had a higher OS than unmarried patients. The highest OS was among married patients with higher socioeconomic status, for certain blood cancers, including Follicular Lymphoma.
So what it is about being married that potentially leads to higher OS rates? (And it's worth remembering that all of this involves statistical analysis, and marital status is no guarantee of anything for any individual patients)
I guess the answer that makes the most sense is that being married means you most likely have easy access to a support system -- emotional support, physical support, spiritual support. I know from my own experience that dealing with my diagnosis, my watching and waiting, and my treatment were all a heck of a lot easier because of my wife. In fact (I've told this story a lot) my first few weeks after diagnosis were hell because I refused to rely on my wife. It was only after I used that support that things got easier for me emotionally.
Now that certainly doesn't mean that unmarried patients won't do well. But it does seem to confirm that people with a support system have an easier time. The researchers suggest there should be more research done in this area, looking at some other factors affect unmarried patients -- things like social support, sticking with a treatment, and healthy lifestyles (all things that are probably helped by having a spouse who reminds you to take your medicine and eat your vegetables, and gives you a hug every now and then).
I think the big lesson here is that our lives are made easier with some kind of support, whether it's from a spouse, a family member, or a good friend. Cancer is way too hard to handle by yourself.