Social Interaction Affecting Cancer Patient’s Response to Treatment

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According to a new research, social interactions between cancer patients might have a positive effect, and improve their response to treatment. The study by National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), has unveiled the responses of cancer patients to the common cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy, when exposed to positive social interaction.

NHGRI, which is also a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the University of Oxford in the U.K., states that although the basis is unknown, it might be connected to stress response. The findings were based on e-health records data of the time-period between 2000 and 2009, obtained from two foremost hospitals in the U.K.’s NIH Service.

Over the years, cancer survival rate has increased significantly, even though cancer remains the major cause of death in the U.S., and across several other nations. Earlier, the cancer patients post-chemotherapy were expected to die in less than five years. But on a positive side, patients were a little more likely to survive for five, or more years subsequent to chemotherapy. This happened when they were exposed to interaction during chemotherapy with other patients, who also survived for five years or more, implying typical behavior of people on the basis of their surrounding environment.

The study published earlier this month, in the journal Network Science, exclaimed that when patients were networked with other co-patients, or peers during chemotherapy, who then passed away in less than five years following the treatment, they had a 72% chance of surviving more than five years post-chemotherapy. On the other hand, patients had a 68% chance of passing away within five years, if they were nearby other patients who stayed alive five years or longer.

In order to determine this social influence, the researchers studied & focused on the co-existence of immediate neighbors in the immediate ward, and created a network of patients that could co-exist in such wards. For this, they examined the patients’ checking in & out records, and created a proxy for social interaction for a longer period of time.

Researchers said that the difference in percentage might not be substantial enough, just by looking at the figures, but the difference, and the improvement affects a lot of patients if observed in the long run.

The researchers also emphasized on the significance of providing positive social support from fellow cancer patients, at the time of moments of maximum stress while undergoing treatments, along with interactions with visitors.

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