Partners of cancer patients consult their GPs significantly more often with both somatic and psychosocial problems

Scand J Prim Health Care. 2013 Dec;31(4):203-8. doi: 10.3109/02813432.2013.861153.


Objective: Partners of cancer patients experience psychological distress and impaired physical health around and after the diagnosis of cancer. It is unknown whether these problems are presented to the general practitioner (GP). This study aimed to establish partners' GP use around the diagnosis of cancer.

Design: Cohort study.

Setting: Primary care.

Subjects: Partners of 3071 patients with breast, prostate, colorectal, or lung cancer were included. Patients were diagnosed in 2001-2009 and were alive at least two years after diagnosis.

Main outcome measures: Number of GP contacts and health problems in partners between six months before and two years after diagnosis.

Results: In the first six months after diagnosis, partners' GP use was similar to baseline (18 to six months before diagnosis). Between six and 24 months after diagnosis, GP use was increased in partners of patients with breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer, an increase of 31% (p = 0.001), 26% (p = 0.001), and 19% (p = 0.042), respectively. In partners of patients with breast cancer and colorectal cancer, GP use was increased for both somatic and psychosocial symptoms. In partners of prostate cancer patients, an increase was seen in somatic symptoms, whereas in partners of lung cancer patients, GP use was only increased for psychosocial symptoms. "Problems with the illness of the partner" was a frequently recorded reason for contact in the first six months after diagnosis.

Conclusion: GP use of partners of cancer patients is increased 6-24 months after diagnosis, but health problems vary between cancer types. GPs should be alert for somatic and psychosocial problems in partners of cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / psychology
  • Female
  • General Practitioners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / therapy*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Time Factors