Relationship communication and the course of psychological outcomes among couples coping with localised prostate cancer

Sharon L. Manne, Deborah Kashy, Shannon Myers-Virtue, Talia Zaider, David W. Kissane, Carolyn J. Heckman, Isaac Kim, Frank Penedo, David Lee

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: How couples communicate about cancer is an important predictor of psychological outcomes for men diagnosed with localised prostate cancer and their spouses. We examined the predictive role of disclosure, responsiveness, mutual avoidance, and holding back on depressive symptoms, psychological adjustment, cancer-specific distress, and cancer concerns. Methods: Eighty-one prostate cancer patients and their spouses completed measures of communication at baseline and measures of four psychological outcomes at baseline, five, 12, and 26 weeks after baseline. Dyadic growth models tested the effects of time and role on each outcome over time. Results: Higher disclosure and responsiveness predicted better psychological outcomes. Less mutual avoidance and holding back predicted poorer psychological outcomes. Across communication variables, individuals who engaged in poorer communication initially had poorer psychological outcomes that improved over time, whereas individuals who engaged in better communication initially maintained their more positive standing without change or changed in the positive direction. For all outcomes, those with better communication still had better psychological outcomes at six months. Conclusion: Couples’ cancer-specific relationship communication predicts their psychological outcomes. More research is needed to identify effective interventions, including a longer therapy course, individual communication training, or greater focus on addressing barriers to sharing and responsiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13401
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer Care
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer
  • marital relationship
  • prostate cancer
  • relationship communication

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