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Study of dyadic communication in couples managing prostate cancer: a longitudinal perspective

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Abstract

Objective: Cancer patients and partners often report inadequate communication about illness-related issues, although it is essential for mutual support and informal caregiving. This study examined the patterns of change in dyadic communication between patients with prostate cancer and their partners, and also determined if certain factors affected their communication over time.

Method: Using multilevel modeling, this study analyzed longitudinal data obtained from a randomized clinical trial with prostate cancer patients and their partners, to examine their communication over time. Patients and partners (N=134 pairs) from the usual-care control group independently completed baseline demographic assessment and measures of social support, uncertainty, symptom distress, and dyadic communication at baseline, and 4-, 8-, and 12-month follow-ups.

Results: The results indicated that (1) patients and partners reported similar levels of open communication at the time of diagnosis. Communication reported by patients and partners decreased over time in a similar trend, regardless of phase of illness; (2) phase of illness affected couples' open communication at diagnosis but not patterns of change over time; and (3) couples' perceived communication increased as they reported more social support, less uncertainty, and fewer hormonal symptoms in patients. Couples' demographic factors and general symptoms, and patients' prostate cancer-specific symptoms did not affect their levels of open communication.

Conclusions: Perceived open communication between prostate cancer patients and partners over time is affected by certain baseline and time-varying psychosocial and cancer-related factors. The results provide empirical evidence that may guide the development of strategies to facilitate couples' interaction and mutual support during survivorship. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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