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Stress deteriorates the health of caregivers

man

The men who care for women with breast cancer suffer too. Even years after the cancer diagnosis and completion of treatment, there is a measurable negative effect on men’s health.

The stress of being a caregiver can cause physical symptoms and weaken immune response, according to a new study published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

The researchers wanted to determine the impact on health to the male caregivers of women with breast cancer. They discovered that how stressed the men were about the cancer actually had a bigger effect on their health than the status of their wife’s disease.

The hope of the study is the attention will also be paid the caregivers of cancer victims during the treatment process of the patient. This care might include screening for stress symptoms, encouragement to participate in stress management, relaxation and other self-care activities.

“If you care for the caregiver, your patient gets better care, too,” said Kristen Carpenter, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Ohio State and a co-author of the study.

The Hidden Patient

Sharia Wells-Di Gregorio of the Ohio State Center for Palliative Care addressed the "hidden patient":

“Caregivers are called hidden patients because when they go in for appointments with their spouses, very few people ask how the caregiver is doing. These men are experiencing significant distress and physical complaints, but often do not seek medical care for themselves due to their focus on their wives’ illness.”

The study did not reveal if stress causes immune dysregulation which causes the symptoms, or if the stress directly causes symptoms like headaches, gastrointestinal problems coughing and nausea.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Brain, Behavior and Immunity

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