Family Intervention Helps Spouses of Prostate Cancer Patients

According to the results of a study published in the journal Cancer, a family intervention that offered support and information to prostate cancer patients and their spouses provided important benefits, particularly to the spouses.

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. In 2007, there will be an estimated 218,000 new diagnoses of prostate cancer and roughly 27,000 deaths.[1]

Although survival with prostate cancer is often quite good, treatment of prostate cancer can have serious side effects such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Developing ways to help patients and their spouses deal with the stress, uncertainty, and side effects that accompany prostate cancer and its treatment may provide important quality of life benefits.

To evaluate a family-based intervention intended to help both patients and their spouses, researchers conducted a study among 235 prostate cancer patients and their spouses.[2] The study included three different groups of prostate cancer patients: men who were newly diagnosed, men who had just experienced a biochemical recurrence (a post-treatment PSA increase), and men who had just been diagnosed with a new metastasis or cancer progression.

Patient/spouse pairs were assigned to receive either usual care or the family-based intervention. The intervention, which was delivered by trained nurses, consisted of three 90-minute home visits and two 30-minute telephone sessions delivered over a four-month period.

The content of the intervention focused on five areas: family involvement, optimistic attitude, coping effectiveness, uncertainty reduction, and symptom management.

  • At the four-month follow-up, prostate cancer patients who had received the intervention reported less uncertainty and better communication with their spouses than patients who had not received the intervention. No other significant differences, however, were observed between patients who had and had not received the intervention.
  • Several benefits were observed for spouses who received the intervention. At the four-month follow-up, spouses who received the intervention reported better quality of life, more self-efficacy, better communication, less negative appraisal of caregiving, less uncertainty, less hopelessness, and less symptom distress than spouses who did not receive the intervention. Some of these benefits persisted at the eight- and 12-month follow-up visits.

The researchers conclude: “Programs of care need to be extended to spouses who likely will experience multiple benefits from intervention.”


[1] American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2007. Available at: (Accessed November 15, 2007).

[2] Northouse LL, Mood DW, Schafenacker A et al. Randomized clinical trial of a family intervention for prostate cancer patients and their spouses. Cancer [early online publication]. November 12, 2007.

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