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A Cancer Diagnosis and its Impact on Intimate Relationships

1 August 2007


Background: Even though the treatment and survival rate for cancer has drastically improved over the past few decades, more people are being diagnosed each year. The increased survival of cancer patients has lead to many concerns regarding social aspects of their lives following the disease. Previous studies have indicated that childhood cancer survivors were more likely to live at home with their parents longer; wait until older to live-in with a partner, and wait longer to get married. However, little research has been conducted to investigate whether or not a cancer diagnosis would have an effect on a young male or female's romantic life in regards to dating, getting married and having children. Thus, this was the topic to be investigated during this study.

Hypothesis: 1. A cancer diagnosis will have a greater impact on a younger female's decision to remain in a relationship, especially if the man will not be able to father a child after remission or disease cure. 2. Men will also be less likely to continue a relationship if the woman is unable to .conceive a child due to cancer, but to a lesser degree than the females. 3. The issue of a cancer diagnosis will be of greater impact on the younger men and women in comparison to those over the age of 50.

Study Design: Internet Survey

Methods: Participants Data collection was conducted over a I-month period in 2007. The population included both men and women 18 years of age and older. For investigational purposes, the participants were divided into seven age groups.

Exclusionary Criteria Individuals were only excluded from the study if they were under the age of 18; or if they were unable to read English at a level which gave them an understanding of the consent process.

Recruitment The primary mode of advertisement was via E-mail to fellow students, friends and family. All advertisements included a link to the survey which was preceded by the studies consent form.

Materials: The initial research for this investigation revealed no previously used surveys that could be used. Therefore, a survey was designed for the purpose of this study. It consisted of 19 questions, of which one was for participant exclusion; nine pertained to participant demographics; eight were specific to cancer diagnosis and intimate relationships; and one was open-ended and was optional and left for participant comments. The survey was conducted on the internet web site, Survey Monkey.

Data Management: The data was managed withMicrosoft Excel and Statistix 8.0 software. Chi-Square tests were performed to compare the relationship between Gender and the eight specific cancer diagnosis and intimate relationship questions. Chi-Square statistics were also used to compare the above eight questions with Age/Gender, Age, and Cancer history. Results: In regards to gender, it was indicated that there were significant differences for question one, indicating that more men would be bothered by a partner's diagnosis of cancer. Men are also less likely to remain in a relationship following a cancer diagnosis for their significant other. This was also the case if the female had a good prognosis and could still have children after the treatment. Men were also found to have more of a medical background than the female participants. Questions two and eight were found to have a significant difference when looking at age. The group over the age of 41 years had more experience in an intimate relationship and also had more medical background than those under the age of 40. It was also indicated that both the under 40 and over 41 year old participants were uncertain if they would remain in a relationship following a diagnosis of cancer. It was interesting to note that those with a history of cancer were both more likely to state that being in an intimate relationship would bother them more than the non-cancer participants. Also, the cancer group was more likely to say they disagreed that it would bother them.

Conclusion: The goal of the present study was to take a deeper look into the affects cancer has on a person's decision to begin or maintain an intimate relationship. Previous . studies have shown that the disease has an impact on multiple areas of one's personal and . social life, especially at a younger age. However, little data was found specifically investigating and comparing different groups and individual's outlook-on staying in or beginning a relationship with someone with a history of cancer.

Hypothesis # 1 : The analysis found that in regards to age alone, there was no significant difference. However, in regards to gender, the alternate hypothesis was rejected.

Hypothesis #2: The alternate hypothesis was accepted. It appears that males are less likely to remain in the relationship with a new diagnosis of cancer. This was also the case when adding that the· woman would not be able to have children regardless of her medical prognosis.

Hypothesis #3: The statistics indicated that both the age groups were uncertain on whether or not they would remain in the relationship. This was evident in both questions three and four.


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