Men with Prostate Cancer Worry Less About Recurrence Than Their Partners Do

Researchers at Mount Sinai have found that when it comes to worrying about the recurrence of prostate cancer, male patients worry less than their spouses or partners.

New York, NY
 – April 23, 2009 /Press Release/  –– 

Researchers at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York have found that, when it comes to worrying about the recurrence of prostate cancer, male patients worry less than their female spouses or partners. The study was presented today at the 30th annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in Montreal.

In a study of 96 men and their spouses or partners, Michael Diefenbach, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Urology and Oncological Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found that, at the time of prostate cancer diagnosis, the male patients described themselves as "moderately worried" about the chance of their disease recurring, while their female spouses and partners described themselves as "very much" worried.

We know that illness perception and worries about cancer recurrence influence the emotional well-being of patients. But our studies show that this worry is actually a greater stress on spouses and partners. This research can help us develop programs to address the emotional health of the entire family unit, said Dr. Diefenbach.

For both groups, the concern about recurrence decreased over the next 12 months, though it decreased more for the male patients than it did for their spouses and partners. This led to an even greater disparity after one year than what was observed at the time of diagnosis, with the men describing themselves as "a little bit" worried and their spouses and partners saying they were "moderately worried."

The study also showed that men were less likely to worry about their cancer recurring if they believed that treatment options for their cancer would be effective, while their spouses’ and partners’ worries were generally unaffected by outside factors.

For the male patients, the main driver of worry about cancer recurrence was whether they believed that effective treatment was available for their disease, said Dr. Diefenbach. "But for their spouses and partners it was not possible to determine the main driver of worry, as their response was mainly an emotional one. The one factor we could really measure that affects the level of spouse and partner worry is age – in general, the older the spouse or partner, the more concerned they were about cancer recurrence."

Dr. Diefenbach leads a federally funded research program that aims to improve treatment decision making, patient-physician communication and quality of life through innovative patient and family focused programs. He is also the developer of the Prostate Interactive Education System (PIES), a Web tool that helps prostate cancer patients weigh their treatment options.

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center
The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The Mount Sinai Hospital is one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. Founded in 1852, Mount Sinai today is a 1,171-bed tertiary-care teaching facility that is internationally acclaimed for excellence in clinical care. Last year, nearly 50,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients, and there were nearly 450,000 outpatient visits to the Medical Center.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine is internationally recognized as a leader in groundbreaking clinical and basic-science research, as well as having an innovative approach to medical education. With a faculty of more than 3,400 in 38 clinical and basic science departments and centers, Mount Sinai ranks among the top 20 medical schools in receipt of National Institute of Health (NIH) grants.