What does that odd and random statistical comparison mean? When did there start being fewer weddings than cancer diagnosis? Does that mean that the diagnostic acumen has risen so that we are catching more cases before people simply die of an unknown cause? These were not cancer deaths, only diagnosis. Are weddings down that much? How many of these people will survive? Will there be more cancer patients that beat cancer, (have a five-year or longer remission) than marriages that do not end in divorce? Who has the greater survival rate?
A quick search of the Internet leads to an article from BBC News. This one focuses on Scotland, not all of the UK. It sees getting married, having your first child and getting a cancer diagnosis as three life altering events. The stats here add another interesting wrinkle. With cancer rising in Scotland by 18 percent in the last five years there are 1,700 more cases than there are weddings. There are also 8000 more cases of cancer diagnosed than women having their first child. This doesn’t seen that unlikely since they are only counting women having their first child, which means women between the likely ages of 14 and 45. Where cancer is diagnosed in men and women of all ages.
Apparently the research is part of a campaign to help people understand that cancer is not rare and does not have to be frightening. They are trying to highlight the fact that it is increasingly common, and that there is a great deal of support and treatments available.
The same search also netted a USA Today reported in 2013 that married cancer patients are 20 percent more likely to survive than those who are single, separated, widowed or divorced, according to the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The underlying thesis is that social support is more important than a marriage license. The support system starts early. Married people tend to be diagnosed earlier in the course of the disease than their single counterparts. Presumably this is because a spouse can spot changes in behavior and is likely to encourage a person to see a doctor.
Not surprising the study also shows that men seem to get “more of a survival boost from marriage than women.”
One explanation can be found in a CNN article – “A 2009 study published in the journal Cancer found that a married woman diagnosed with a serious disease is six times more likely to be divorced or separated than a man with a similar diagnosis. Among study participants, the divorce rate was 21 percent for seriously ill women and 3 percent for seriously ill men. A control group divorced at a rate of 12 percent, suggesting that if disease makes husbands more likely to split, it makes wives more likely to stay. The good news is that the later into a marriage that a woman is diagnosed, the less likely her spouse is to leave. It is newer marriages, less than fifteen years, which are the most vulnerable.
This does not mean that single people should despair. It means that they need to enlist more social support – from support groups, from psychologists and from friends and family. It also means that those of us who have friends and family members with a diagnosis need to be there in many ways – from taking them to appointments, helping with chores, taking them out to get their mind off of their illness and sitting with them when things are not going so well. Everyone has different skills and it will take a lot of people to help a person fight cancer.
Couples may be able to lean on each other, but it is important that they too have support from friends, family, medical and other professionals.
As Trisha Hatt points out in the BBC News article:
"Survival rates from the illness are increasing, and even those with incurable cancer often live for many years.
"This report is about highlighting what life with cancer really looks like for a lot of people - looking after their children, seeing friends and even going to work.
"Most people say they want to keep life as normal as possible after treatment. That's why it's vital they get the support they need to deal with the emotional, practical and financial problems cancer can cause."