Partner’s of breast cancer patients at higher risk of major depression

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A new study has found that men whose partner’s are suffering from breast cancer are at an increased risk of developing depression and other mental health problems that are severe enough to land them in hospital.

The 13 year study involved an analysis of the records of over 1 million men from Denmark, who had no prior history of mental health problems and who had lived with the same partner for a period of 5 years or more, to see how many developed major depression, bipolar disorder, or other serious mental health conditions.

Over 20,500 of these men had a partner who was diagnosed with breast cancer and 180 men went on to suffer severe mental health problems that required hospitalisation.

It is already well known and recognised that when an individual is seriously ill it can affect not only the individual’s mental health but also the mental health of their family.

It is therefore no surprise that partner’s of breast cancer patients are more at risk of developing a mental health problem as they have to cope with an incredible amount of stress and at the same time are required to be supportive in all sorts of ways from emotional to practical to financial.

However, so far, very little study has been conducted into severe cases of depression in men whose partners have breast cancer.

In this Danish study, the researchers found that there was almost a 40 percent increased risk of being hospitalised with an affective disorder if the partner had breast cancer when compared to men whose partners did not have breast cancer.

The risk increased even more if the partner suffered a relapse or if the cancer was particularly severe.

In cases were the partner died, the men had a 3.6 fold increase in the risk of developing an affective disorder compared to men whose partner’s survived.

“Breast cancer not only affects the life of the patient but may also seriously aff­ect the partner” said study author Christoffer Johansen of the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen.

“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” he added.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal ‘Cancer’.

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