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Wife's cancer may trigger husband's sub-health: Study

(Xinhua)

13:36, April 25, 2012

BEIJING, April 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Self-reproach, depression, fear of loss -- all of these moods are harmful to a husband who takes care of his wife suffering from cancer.

The long-term stress may undermine a husband's health, and this effect can continue for years even after his wife’s treatment ends, according to a new research in the U.S.

An Ohio State University study of 32 men found that those who had the highest levels of stress related to their wives' cancer were most likely to have physical symptoms -- such as headaches and abdominal pain -- and weaker immune responses.

The median age of the men in the study was 58, and they had been married for an average of 26 years.

"The stress is not an acute symptom that lasts a few weeks; it's a chronic stress that lasts for years," study co-author Kristen Carpenter, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology, said in a university news release.

A previous research has suggested that people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to infection and might not respond well to vaccines.

The findings, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, suggest that doctors caring for breast cancer patients could help their patients by considering their caregivers' health, too, the researchers said.

These men, patient’s husbands that are caregivers called hidden patients, are experiencing significant distress and physical complaints, but often do not seek medical care for themselves due to their focus on their wives' illness.

"If you care for the caregiver, your patient gets better care too," Kristen Carpenter said. This could include screening caregivers for stress symptoms and encouraging them to participate in stress management, relaxation or other self-care therapies.

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