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J Pain Symptom Manage. 1992 Feb;7(2):87-93.

Cancer pain in the marital system: a study of patients and their spouses.


Forty married patients with metastatic cancer, who were receiving opioid medication for cancer pain, were interviewed for this study. They were asked about their pain and its treatment, their beliefs regarding cancer pain, their concerns about opioid analgesics, their mood state, and the nature of their interaction with their spouse in relation to these issues. The spouses of these cancer patients were interviewed separately about the same issues. For example, patients who were concerned about medication side effects tended to suffer high levels of pain before requesting additional analgesics. Spouses are shown in this study to be an important support for the patient and an essential source of information regarding the patient's pain and its management. For example, although spouses were generally accurate in their estimates of the patients' pain levels, in the case of relatively stoic patients, who may underreport their pain levels, the spouses' estimates were higher than the patients'. The results also indicate that patients underestimate the distress their pain causes to their spouses and that spouses tend to downgrade their own support to the patients. Implications and limitations of these findings are discussed.

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