Dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer is something both a woman with cancer and her husband must do. In a new study, Lia M. Kraemer and her colleagues looked at how each partner’s coping mechanisms affected the overall psychological stress following a wife’s treatment for breast cancer. Kraemer, of the University of California, Los Angeles, and lead author of the study, said that the amount of psychological distress a cancer survivor experiences can be predicted by the type of coping strategies she and her partner use. “Theoretically, partners’ coping strategies that promote engagement with the stressor should reassure the ill person of the partner’s concern, promote intimacy, and decrease the burden on the affected person, as the partner shares in the management of the illness,” said Kraemer. “In addition, the partner engaging in “we” talk regarding coping with the patient’s medical problem predicts improvement in disease-related symptoms and general health in individuals with chronic disease.”
The researchers enlisted 139 couples comprised of men and their female partners who had recently undergone treatment for breast cancer. The first interview was conducted 10 months after diagnoses, and the second 20 months after. The researchers could not identify one single coping strategy that stood out as the most likely to decrease stress, but did notice that approach-oriented strategies in general were most beneficial to both partners. “Women’s own approach-oriented coping predicted improvements in their vitality and depressive symptoms, whereas their husbands’ approach-oriented coping predicted an increase in women’s perceived cancer-related beneﬁts,” said the team. “In conclusion, this research highlights the importance of examining patients’ and partners’ coping strategies simultaneously.” They added, “That approach-oriented coping by husbands predicted enhanced beneﬁt ﬁnding by wives complements research suggesting that actively engaging in the breast cancer experience, talking about the marital relationship, and the partner engaging in ‘we’ talk regarding coping with the medical problem of the patient are associated with improved well-being and health in the couple or patient experiencing chronic disease.”
Kraemer, L. M., Stanton, A. L., Meyerowitz, B. E., Rowland, J. H., & Ganz, P. A. (2011, September 19). A Longitudinal Examination of Couples’ Coping Strategies as Predictors of Adjustment to Breast Cancer. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025551
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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