There is an abundance of research examining the psychological effects of breast cancer diagnoses and treatment on women. There is less research on how the treatment of this potentially life-threatening disease affects the men who care about them. In a recent study, Beth E. Meyerowitz of the University of Southern California assessed how 164 men adjusted to their lives and relationships four and eight months after their partners completed breast cancer treatment. Meyerowitz examined whether psychological preparedness would improve adjustment levels and whether pre-cancer expectations of life after treatment would affect coping and adjustment.
By looking at the men’s moods, qualities of life, and cancer-derived stress, Meyerowitz discovered that preparation was the key to successful adjustment. She found that at both time points, the men who were better prepared prior to treatment had more stable levels of adjustment following treatment. The men who were less prepared to handle the ups and downs of post-treatment life had dramatic improvements in adjustment at the four-month and eight-month points, but their levels were still significantly lower than those found among the men who were psychologically prepared for post-treatment challenges.
One of the biggest influences on poor adjustment was the presence of intrusive negative thoughts relating to the illness. Specifically, the men who adjusted poorly reported having high levels of fearful and worrisome thoughts after treatment. This finding demonstrates the importance of early preparation in order to increase men’s coping skills after treatment. Meyerowitz pointed out that the narrow preparedness scale and the lack of help-seeking behavior exploration may have limited the scope of the current research. However, she believes that these findings shed light on an important yet unrealized factor. “Patients’ medical treatments were not associated with partner adjustment,” Meyerowitz said. “It was being prepared, a potentially modiﬁable factor, that was predictive.”
Meyerowitz, B. E., Christie, K. M., Stanton, A. L., Rowland, J. H., Ganz, P. A. (2012). Men’s adjustment after their partners’ complete treatment for localized breast cancer. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029245
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