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Depression Is Prevalent in Partners of Cancer Patients

Men whose partners were diagnosed with breast cancer were 39% more likely to be hospitalized due to an affective disorder (major depression, bipolar disease, and other serious mood-altering conditions) compared with men whose partners were not diagnosed with breast cancer. These findings were recently published in the journal Cancer.[1]

Caregivers are individuals who provide care to chronically ill or disabled family members or friends.  Helping someone go through a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery requires understanding, encouragement, patience, and energy. Caregivers become part advocate, nurse, organizer, and financial analyst in addition to maintaining their other responsibilities.  Caring for someone with a life-threatening disease can be emotionally and physically draining. Researchers recently conducted a study to evaluate prevalence of mood disorders among partners of women diagnosed with breast cancer.

In this large study in Denmark, researchers evaluated how a diagnosis of breast cancer impacted the mental health of the patient’s male partner—specifically, how often male partners were hospitalized with affective disorders. Data were analyzed from over 1.1 million men who were followed for 13 years. Men included in the analysis were 30 years or older and had been with the same partner for a minimum of five years. All 1.1 million men included in the analysis had no history of hospitalization for an affective disorder.

  • 20,538 partners of the 1.1 million men evaluated were diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • 180 men of the 20,538 whose partners were diagnosed with breast cancer were hospitalized with an affective disorder; men whose partners were diagnosed with breast cancer were 39% more likely to be hospitalized with an affective disorder.
  • An increase in likelihood of hospitalization due to an affective disorder was also linked to a partner’s severity of breast cancer, breast cancer recurrence, as well as death due to breast cancer.

Severe depression is clearly a challenge that many partners of women with breast cancer face. Educating patients and their partners about the risk of experiencing mental health challenges as well as providing appropriate depression screening for spouses and caregivers of cancer patients is warranted.

Reference:



[1] Nakaya N, Saito–Nakaya K, Bidstrup PE, et al. Increased risk for severe depression in male partners of women with breast cancer. Cancer [early online publication]. September 27, 2010.