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Marriage And Cancer Survival Linked In Lung Cancer Patients: Study

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Researchers at the University of Maryland's Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center have found one thing that may help lung cancer patients fight the disease: marriage.

According to a press release on the school's website, 33 percent of married patients with lung cancer who participated in the study were still alive three years after diagnosis, compared to just 10 percent of single patients.

The study looked at 168 stage III patients with non-small cell lung cancer -- the most common type of lung cancer -- who were being exclusively treated with chemotherapy and radiation between 2000 and 2010. The main findings were presented Thursday at the Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology.

While the study suggests a correlation between patients' survival rates and their relationship statuses, there were some variations by gender and race. Married women had a 46 percent overall survival rate -- the highest in the study -- while single men had the lowest, at just three percent. Married white patients had an overall higher rate, at 40 percent, than married African American patients, at 26 percent.

Researchers, however, aren't sure why married patients have a better survival rate.

The findings “suggest the importance of social support in managing and treating our lung cancer patients," lead author Elizabeth Nichols said in the press release. "Patients may need help with day-to-day activities, getting to treatment and making sure they receive proper follow-up care.”

Marriage has also been connected to higher survival rates in colon cancer patients. A study by Penn State's College of Medicine and Brigham Young University in 2011 found that married cancer patients tend to be diagnosed at earlier stages and received more aggressive treatment, therefore increasing their chances of survival.

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