Wives of many prostate cancer sufferers made ill or feel undermined by the disease

March 19, 2018

Copenhagen: Many wives of advanced prostate cancer sufferers feel that their lives are being undermined by their husband's illness, with nearly half reporting that their own health suffered. In addition a focus subgroup has revealed that many feel isolated and fearful, and worry about the role change in their lives as their husband's cancer advances. This study, developed with the wives of men with metastatic prostate cancer who were being treated with hormone therapy, is amongst the first carried out on how prostate cancer affects the partners of sufferers. It was presented yesterday at the EAU conference in Copenhagen.

Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer. Prostate cancer which metastisises to other parts of the body is often difficult or impossible to cure, and so is often treated with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), which slows down the tumour growth. ADT shuts down production of the hormone testosterone, but that leads to fatigue, frailty, and loss of sexual drive. The effects of prostate cancer and its treatment have been extensively studied in men, but there is almost no work on how this affects their partners.

A team of Danish researchers from Herlev and Gentofte University Hospital, led by registered nurse Jeanne Avlastenok and Dr. Peter Østergren, have been working with the wives and partners of men who had been undergoing exercise therapy to maintain body strength and resilience during prostate cancer treatment. They questioned 56 women on how the cancers were affecting the lives of their husbands. Nearly half of these women (26 women, i.e. 46%) reported that their partner's health problem had affected their own health.

The researchers randomly selected 8 women for in-depth, focus-group style interviews - aimed at encouraging the women to express how they are being affected by their partner's illness.

"We worked with the women as a group, encouraging them to be open about what they felt in a supportive group environment", said Jeanne Avlastenok.

"Three of the women - those with early stage disease - were less burdened than the others, but the remaining five expressed some significant concerns.

Many felt increasingly socially isolated. Their husbands were fatigued both by the illness and by the treatment, which meant that they couldn't socialize as a couple, which made the women feel cut off from social support".

Sample Comment: ''Because he sleeps so much we do not visit the family or our friends and do not have many guests'' said one.

RN Jeanne Avlastenok continued, "They also gradually developed a real fear of being alone, even within the relationship. They felt that they had to be strong, which meant that they couldn't share the burden of the illness.

The last theme which worried the women was over the role change in their relationship. As their men became less able to fulfil their usual roles, the women had to undertake tasks which had previously fallen to the men. Many of these are simple tasks but for the women they represented a sea change in the way their lives were structured".

Sample Comment: 'We have 22 windows and my husband thinks that he still can polish them and also do all the gardening. But nothing happens and he doesn't want me to arrange professional help''

All of the women were worried that their husbands would develop significant pain as the disease progressed.

The team stresses that the focus group findings is very much qualitative work on a small sample. "But in any study, you need to do the qualitative work before moving to any larger sample", said Dr. Peter Østergren, "We needed to let the women express their concerns first, so we can understand which questions to ask

Commenting, Professor Hein van Poppel (Leuven, Belgium), EAU Adjunct Secretary General for Education, said:

"Many prostate cancer patients have a hard time, both physically and emotionally, and this work shows that this stress can spill over and affect wives and partners. This is good for neither of them. Good mental and emotional health needs to be part of how we judge a treatment, and we need to try to ensure that both patients and their partners get the support they both need".

Professor van Poppel was not involved in this research, this is an independent comment. Only departmental funds were used for this research.
-end-


European Association of Urology

Related Prostate Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Low risk of cancer spread on active surveillance for early prostate cancer
Men undergoing active surveillance for prostate cancer have very low rates - one percent or less - of cancer spread (metastases) or death from prostate cancer, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Urology®, an Official Journal of the American Urological Association (AUA).

ESMO 2020: Breast cancer drug set to transform prostate cancer treatment
A drug used to treat breast and ovarian cancer can extend the lives of some men with prostate cancer and should become a new standard treatment for the disease, concludes a major trial which is set to change clinical practice.

Major trial shows breast cancer drug can hit prostate cancer Achilles heel
A drug already licensed for the treatment of breast and ovarian cancers is more effective than targeted hormone therapy at keeping cancer in check in some men with advanced prostate cancer, a major clinical trial reports.

The Lancet: Prostate cancer study finds molecular imaging could transform management of patients with aggressive cancer
Results from a randomised controlled trial involving 300 prostate cancer patients find that a molecular imaging technique is more accurate than conventional medical imaging and recommends the scans be introduced into routine clinical practice.

Common genetic defect in prostate cancer inspires path to new anti-cancer drugs
Researchers found that, in prostate cancer, a mutation leading to the loss of one allele of a tumor suppressor gene known as PPP2R2A is enough to worsen a tumor caused by other mutations.

First prostate cancer therapy to target genes delays cancer progression
For the first time, prostate cancer has been treated based on the genetic makeup of the cancer, resulting in delayed disease progression, delayed time to pain progression, and potentially extending lives in patients with advanced, metastatic prostate cancer, reports a large phase 3 trial.

Men taking medications for enlarged prostate face delays in prostate cancer diagnosis
University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers report that men treated with medications for benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) experienced a two-year delay in diagnosis of their prostate cancer and were twice as likely to have advanced disease upon diagnosis.

CNIO researchers confirm links between aggressive prostate cancer and hereditary breast cancer
The study has potential implications for families with members suffering from these types of tumours who are at an increased risk of developing cancer.

Distinguishing fatal prostate cancer from 'manageable' cancer now possible
Scientists at the University of York have found a way of distinguishing between fatal prostate cancer and manageable cancer, which could reduce unnecessary surgeries and radiotherapy.

Researchers find prostate cancer drug byproduct can fuel cancer cells
A genetic anomaly in certain men with prostate cancer may impact their response to common drugs used to treat the disease, according to new research at Cleveland Clinic.

Read More: Prostate Cancer News and Prostate Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.