PORTLAND -- A recent study shows if you're married and facing cancer, your chances of beating it are better than someone who's not married.
When Jean Claude Paris learned he had prostate cancer, his wife of 40 years became his rock. The couple, also dance partners, understand the importance of having someone for support when dealing with the twists and turns that come with a cancer diagnosis.
“It’s OK to be scared about it but then I think it’s really important to find all kinds of positive things to think about,” Maarja Paris, Jean Claude’s wife said.
New research released by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute shows married people with cancer were about 20 percent less likely to die over a three-year period compared to those not married -- regardless of the stage of cancer.
Married cancer patients were also 17 percent less likely to have the cancer spread beyond the original site.
“It’s definitely an intimate and personal support -- very close to your life and everything you do every day,” Jean Claude Paris said.
At Legacy Good Samaritan, Selma Annala helps cancer patients find some kind of emotional support.
“We try to take it beyond the family because not everybody has a family member. Not everybody’s married. We’re not saying everybody should go out and get married now,” Annala said.
Hospital visits and treatment, she said, are made easier with support and may be why survival rates may be affected by marriage.
“When we hear ‘I don’t have a support person,’ we start having people go through a list of friends or who have you helped?” Annala said.
Legacy also tries to strengthen support among couples.
“Jean Claude has a tendency to be a bit anxious,” said Maarja Paris. “I’d talk about it and point things out. That’s how we started looking for a support group.”
They found support in a Latin dance group through Legacy. One member of each couple in class is battling cancer.
Seven years since his diagnosis, Jean Claude is still dancing, knowing the support of his wife with every step helped him recover.
The new study also found that the benefit of marriage on cancer outcomes was greater for men than women but researchers said it would take work to determine why.
KGW Cathy Marshall contributed to this report.