[personal profile] tyresias
Female cancer patients are six times as likely as male cancer patients to become separated or divorced after their diagnosis, new research indicates.

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle had observed that while the overall rate of divorce among cancer patients was similar to that in the general population, there appeared to be a striking gender difference in patients whose marriages ended. To explore this, they studied 515 patients (about half of whom were women) with life-altering illnesses who were married at the time of their diagnosis. The study subjects either had a brain tumour (214 patients), another form of cancer (193 patients) or multiple sclerosis (MS) (108 patients).

The results showed that the vast majority (88 per cent) of the 60 patients who got divorced or separated were women. Female patients were far more likely than male patients to be abandoned by their partner: 21 per cent of the women became separated or divorced during the followup period, compared to only 3 per cent of the men.

The only other significant risk factor for a partner leaving after a diagnosis was age: patients who were younger than 50 were more likely to separate or divorce than patients over age 50.

The researchers found that the patients who remained with their partners had been married longer than those who got divorced (27 years compared to 14 years).

The findings also suggest that divorce and separation are significantly associated with poor outcomes. Use of antidepressants was higher in divorced and separated patients, they were hospitalized more often, and they were less likely to participate in clinical trials, to complete their radiation treatment or to die at home.

Because women were more likely to separate or divorce in all three disease groups, the researchers believe the results can probably be applied to life-altering illnesses in general.

The study appears in the Nov. 15, 2009 issue of Cancer.
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