, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 367-374
Date: 19 Jan 2005

Problem-solving and distress in prostate cancer patients and their spousal caregivers

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Goals of work

Prostate cancer, the most common life-threatening cancer among American men, increases risk of psychosocial distress and negatively impacts quality of life for both patients and their spouses. To date, most studies have examined the relationship between patient coping and distress; however, it is also likely that what the spouse does to cope, and ultimately how the spouse adjusts, will affect the patient’s adjustment and quality of life. The present study examined the relationships of spouse problem-solving coping, distress levels and patient distress in the context of prostate cancer. The following mediational model was tested: Spouses’ problem-solving coping will be significantly inversely related to patients’ levels of distress, but this relationship will be mediated by spouses’ distress levels.

Patients and methods

One hundred seventy-one patients with prostate cancer and their spousal caregivers were assessed for mood; spouses were assessed for problem-solving coping skills. Structural equation modeling was used to test model fit.

Main results

The model tested was a good fit to the data. Dysfunctional spousal problem-solving was a significant predictor of spouse distress level but constructive problem-solving was not. Spouse distress was significantly related to patient distress. Spouse dysfunctional problem-solving predicted patient distress, but this relationship was mediated by spouse distress. The same mediational relationship did not hold true for constructive problem-solving.


Spouse distress mediates the relationship between spouse dysfunctional coping and patient distress. Problem-solving interventions and supportive care for spouses of men with prostate cancer may impact not only spouses but the patients as well.