Partners of Breast Cancer Patients Suffer from Mood Disorders

by Lois Etienne on October 20, 2010

in Senior Health and Safety

Question:  I was the primary caregiver for my 84-year-old wife, who recently died from breast cancer. I am having trouble coping. Is my situation unique and what can I do?

A recent study revealed that many male partners of breast cancer patients are at increased risk of developing mood disorders that are so severe that they warrant hospitalization. The study indicates that clinicians should address the mental health of cancer patients’ loved ones.

Diseases can compromise the mental health of not only affected patients but of their closest relatives as well, noted the article, published online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. Partners in particular are at risk because they may feel stressed and deprived of emotional, social and economic support.

Christoffer Johansen MD, PhD, DSc (Med), of the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, Denmark, led a team that analyzed how frequently male partners of women with breast cancer are hospitalized with affective disorders, which include major depression, bipolar disease, and other serious mood-altering conditions.

The recent study found that men whose partners died after breast cancer had a 3.6-fold increased risk of developing an affective disorder compared with men whose partners survived.

“A diagnosis of breast cancer not only affects the life of the patient, but may also seriously affect the partner,” Johansen said. “We suggest that some sort of screening of the partners of cancer patients in general and of those of breast cancer patients in particular for depressive symptoms might be important for preventing this devastating consequence of cancer.”

You’ve been through a terrible trauma and it will take time to heal. Why not talk with your doctor about what he or she might recommend in the way of treatment and resources that could help you get better. Also, don’t isolate yourself from other family members and friends. Try to reconnect with the hobbies and passions that were a part of your life before your wife became ill and passed away. Meet with friends and share your thoughts and feelings.

Why not consider companionship assistance?  CAREGivers from Home Instead Senior Care can make a difference in your life by providing companionship and support.  Why not call your local office today.

For more information about In Home Care Services for Alzheimer’s patients, or to get answers to your questions, please contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.  We can be reached — anytime day or night – by calling: Spokane: 509.835.5898, North King/Snohomish Counties: 425.670.2292 or South King/Pierce Counties: 253.943.1603. You can also email us

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