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Social support linked to better survival of colorectal cancer patients: study

2017-November-23       Source: Xinhuanet.com

Women with stronger social ties had better survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis, according to a new study out Tuesday that suggested social network strengthening could be a tool for management of the world's third most common cancer.

Women with stronger social ties had better survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis, according to a new study out Tuesday that suggested social network strengthening could be a tool for management of the world's third most common cancer.

A team led by Ying Bao, an epidemiologist from Brigham and Women's Hospital, examined data from 896 women who participated in a long-term research project known as the Nurses' Health Study and had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer between 1992 and 2012.

Social integration was assessed every four years during that time using the Berkman-Syme Social Networks Index, which accounts for factors like marital status, social network size, contact frequency and religious or social group participation.

This helped organize a patient rating system that identified patients on a range from socially isolated to socially integrated.

The team found that overall, women with high levels of social integration before a colorectal cancer diagnosis had significantly reduced risk of all-cause and colorectal cancer-specific mortality, particularly among older women.

Though the number of extended ties, such as religious or social group participation, weren't associated with survival, the presence of more intimate ties with family and friends was associated with a significantly lower death rate, the study said.

"When a patient is diagnosed, health care providers can look to the patient's social network to see if it provides necessary resources or whether outside help might be something to consider," said Bao, who is also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

"That could be assistance from social workers, for example, to ensure access to care. For physicians, portions of a care plan aimed at strengthening a patient's social network can be valuable tools that haven't always been considered in the past."

The researchers explained that there are many pathways through which social networks could cause improved survival among cancer patients.

Some prior research indicated that higher levels of social integration are associated with lower levels of inflammation and thus disease progression.

Other studies indicated it relates to a reduction in psychological stress and poor health behaviors that may contribute to cancer progression.

Support from social networks, such as assistance in getting to medical appointments, reminders to take medications, and help with nutrition and mobility, may also explain the observed association, the researchers said.

Future investigations are required to understand how these factors are influencing different kinds of patients and their care plans, they added.

Editor: 陈锦霞

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