Breast Cancer Survival and Freedom From Recurrence Improved with Strong Social Ties

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A recent research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology concluded that breast cancer patients with strong social ties during the first year following diagnosis have a greater probability of survival and freedom from recurrence than those without social support.

Between 2002 and 2004 over 2,200 breast cancer survivors completed a quality of life survey 6 months and 36 months(for most) after diagnosis. Questions about physical issues such as sleep, eating, and pain, psychological well being, social support and material well being were answered and answers were converted to an overall quality of life score. At a medium follow up of 4.8 years following the initial quality of life assessment patients who had died or been diagnosed with a recurrence were documented.

Six months following diagnosis the only significant association in the data related to dying or a recurrence of cancer was social well-being. Comparing women with the lowest social well-being quality of life score to those with the highest , the women with the highest scores had a 48% reduction in their risk of a cancer recurrence and a 38% reduction in their risk of death.

The strongest predictor of cancer recurrence was emotional support and women who reported the highest satisfaction with marriage and family had a 43 % risk reduction, those with strong social support had a 40% risk reduction, and those with a favorable interpersonal relationships had a 35% risk reduction of cancer recurrence. Although the social support network influenced cancer recurrence and survival during the first year after diagnosis, this association decreased thereafter and by the 3rd year was no longer statistically significant. The authors identified possible reasons for this decline. However, the researchers concluded “Our research supports previous studies that found a benefit for breast cancer patients who have a meaningful emotional support network.”

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