Disclosure between patients with gastrointestinal cancer and their spouses

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Abstract

This study examined patterns of disclosure about cancer-related concerns between patients with GI cancer and their spouses, and associations between patient and spouse disclosure and patient adjustment, spouse adjustment, and aspects of relationship functioning. A sample of 47 patients and 45 of their spouses completed a measure of disclosure which included ratings of their level of disclosure and level of holding back from disclosure of cancer-related concerns. Patients completed a measure of quality of life, spouses completed a measure of caregiver strain, and all participants completed measures of psychological distress and relationship functioning (intimacy, empathy, and partner avoidance and criticism). Data analyses revealed that patients and spouses reported moderately high levels of disclosure and low levels of holding back, with patients reporting higher levels of disclosure than spouses. Among patients and spouses, low levels of disclosure and high levels of holding back were associated with poorer relationship functioning. There were also some indications that high levels of holding back, and to a lesser extent low levels of disclosure, were associated with increased psychological distress for both patients and spouses. However, there were no indications that patient or spouse disclosure was harmful for the other person. Considered overall, the results of this study suggest that levels of disclosure between cancer patients and their spouses may be important in understanding how they adjust as a couple to the demands of the patient's illness. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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