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Br J Cancer. 2011 Apr 12;104(8):1249-55. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.87.

Social support, gender and patient delay.

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The Research Unit for General Practice, Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé 2, Aarhus DK-8000, Denmark.



The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between perceived social support and patient delay (PD) among female and male cancer patients.


A population-based study with register-sampled cancer patients was designed. Patient delay was defined as the time interval between the patient's experience of the first symptom and the first contact with a health-care professional. Both dates were provided by the patients (n=910). The patients completed a purpose-designed questionnaire, which assessed the patient's perceptions of how the partner reacted ('Partner Avoidance' and 'Partner Support') and how others in the social network responded ('Other Avoidance' and 'Other Support') to the patient's worries about the symptoms. The associations between the social support subscales and PD were analysed separately for men and women.


In female patients, Partner Support and Other Support were associated with shorter PD, whereas Other Avoidance was associated with longer PD. In the multivariate analysis, Other Avoidance remained associated with longer PD. Moreover, disclosure of symptoms to someone reduced the likelihood of a long PD in female patients. In male patients, none of the social support scales significantly increased or decreased the risk of a long PD in the univariate analysis, but Partner Support significantly decreased risk of a long PD in the multivariate analysis.


The results of this study suggest that social support and avoidance from network members influence length of PD differently in male and female cancer patients. This gender difference may explain previous mixed findings obtained in this field.

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