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Social Support May Reduce Mortality Risk in Women with Colorectal Cancer

Recent research from Kaiser Permanente reveals that post-menopausal women suffering from colorectal cancer were having more chances of dying from their disease if they had no social support before diagnosis.

The analysis of the study, the Women’s Health Initiative is published in the Cancer journal. The long term study includes the analysis of 1,429 women which included patients at Kaiser Permanente and different health systems.

The study finds that women who reported low levels of social support had overall higher mortality 52% as compared to those women who reported high social support, 42% higher mortality specifically because of colorectal cancer.

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Study outcomes confirmed previous research which suggested the role of social support to patients suffering from serious conditions. The lead author and research scientist, Candyce Kroenke said that these results support the idea that women having supportive family and friends do better when get diagnosed.

He said that the researchers looked into the women’s social circle, their personal connections, living status, and links with the community and other people to evaluate and understand the association. The found higher mortality rates when patients lacked emotional support, informational and as well as tangible support or those who lacked positive interactions.

In another analysis based on the social integration impact, researchers found that those having partners or interacting with community or in any organization showed association with lower mortality rate due to rectal cancer but not because of colon cancer.

Likewise, the analysis found that patients living alone and socially isolated showed high mortality rates from rectal cancer. Kroenke said that such different findings for colon and rectal cancer must be replicated.

The study’s message for patients is to lean on other people when suffering from a serious problem. Kroenke urged people to ask for support rather than dealing with it alone.

These findings are a reminder for the medical practitioners that social support is a highly important determinant. Kroenke said that practitioners can identify patients with low social support and must provide them additional resources such as a therapist to divide the emotional burden of treatment or other social services for providing logistical help like rides to the clinic.

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Social support indicates the material resources and emotional support which are provided to the patients through human interactions and communication. Resources are provided for promoting the recipient’s health. It is integral to health promotion as it helps in satisfying patients’ emotional and physical needs as well as to buffer the depression and effects of the stressful condition.

Cancer patients at Kaiser Permanente in North California undergo a 22 point evaluation of their family, emotional, practical and spiritual support. Patients after colorectal cancer treatment receive personalized survivorship support which includes emotional and social support.

An associate director of the Permanente Medical GroupBrian Misset said this support is part of their commitment to the patients’ health. He said that they provide comprehensive care for their patients who are holistic beings with various needs. This support leads to better outcomes.




Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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