By: Erin Hollenkamp
Last week, Norwegian experts presented research to the European Cancer Organization indicating that cancer patients were no more likely to get a divorce than people without cancer, except when two forms of cancer were present.
Specifically, the experts detailed that married people with cervical or testicular cancer were more likely to get divorced than those people without the disease. The Norwegian researchers studied 2.8 million people, comparing the divorce rates of 215,000 cancer survivors and couples without cancer by simply looking at marriage and divorce registration data from 1974 to 2001.
What the researchers found was surprising on several levels. To begin with, the researchers noticed that women with cervical cancer were 40% more likely to get a divorce than women without this form of cancer. As for men with testicular cancer, they were 20% more likely to get a divorce as compared to married counterparts without the disease. On the other hand, the divorce rate dropped in the years after diagnosis of most other cancers.
Since the researchers did not probe into the reasons for divorce during the study, they were not certain why the likelihood for divorce was higher for cervical and testicular cancer patients.
They did, however, offer several possible explanations. Since both testicular and cervical cancer are curable and often diagnosed at younger ages, some experts opinioned that the divorce rates could be higher because of the youth factor. In other words, they assumed that it may be more difficult for younger people to stay together through cervical or testicular cancer as compared to older couples who have been through more together.
Lesley Fallowfield, a professor of psycho-oncology at Sussex University, noted how sex is a major part of a young couple's relationships, and how anything which could affect that aspect of their lives, something like testicular cancer for instance, could cause one spouse to seek a divorce.
While this study providing some interesting information on the divorce rates of people with cervical or testicular cancer, it also dispelled some myths for other cancer patients, at least to some people.
Astri Syse, an epidemiologist at the Norwegian Cancer Registry, said that this study dispelled the myth within women that if they get breast cancer, their husbands will automatically leave them. Syse noted how the study indicated that survivors of breast cancer were less likely to divorce than women without the disease.
So is this Norwegian study even applicable to people in other countries like the United States? According to the researchers, it may be since Norwegian's divorce rate is the same as other developed countries.