We all know it, advanced prostate cancer not only affects the survivor, but it also affects his family. When diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, the most common treatment is androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) which causes many side effects. These side effects include (but are not limited to) fatigue, nausea, hot flashes, pain, constipation and sexual dysfunction.

Despite that ADT is a treatment that often can be critically compromising to a man very limited research conducted with this subgroup of prostate cancer patients. The impact of advanced prostate cancer and its treatments effect more than the survivor, it has been demonstrated to affect the quality of life for their spousal caregiver. Advanced prostate cancer has been accurately portrayed as a couple’s disease and it is important to evaluate how treatment may affect the quality of the relationship between the survivor and his spouse.

In a small study of 28 advanced prostate cancer survivors who received ADT and their spousal caregivers, researchers found that the advanced prostate cancer survivor’s level of marital satisfaction was related only to his own mental and physical health. However, the spousal caregiver’s level of marital satisfaction was related to her own mental and physical health, as well as the survivor’s. Little discussed, but clearly suggesting that one of the hidden consequences of ADT with men with advanced prostate cancer is the negative effect on their spouses’ marital satisfaction.

Eric S. Zhou, a PhD graduate student in clinical health psychology, conducted this study with Dr. Frank Penedo at the University of Miami. “These findings are intriguing and point to a greater need to understand the implications of prostate cancer for the family, and not just for the survivor,” said Zhou. This study clearly points to the need for additional emotional, informational and tangible support for not only the survivor, but also the spousal caregiver. The findings from this study should act as a call to action for both clinicians and researchers to consider both the survivor and their spouse during the prostate cancer journey.

This study did not evaluate the issues of a changing financial situation as it also impacts a spousal caregiver, nor did it evaluate the impact advanced prostate cancer has on a caregiver in a gay long term relationship.

Eric S. Zhou and Frank J. Penedo as part of Beyond the Abstract on UroToday.com. , Marital satisfaction of advanced prostate cancer survivors and their spousal caregivers: The dyadic effects of physical and mental health