Patients and caregivers both sometimes don’t tell each other about cancer-related concerns. However, a study of patients with gastrointestinal cancer and their spouses showed that disclosing concerns was not harmful to either patient or caregiver. Furthermore, low levels of disclosure and high levels of holiding back increased psychological distress for both. Couples who withheld problems had more difficulty with their relationship.
Laura S. Porter and a team at Duke University Medical Center [questioned 47 patients and their spouses](http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/109924613/ABSTRACT) about how much they disclosed concerns about cancer and how often they “held back.” Patients also answered questions about their quality of life, and spouses responded to a measure of caregiver-strain. All participants completed measures of psychological distress and relationship functioning that included intimacy, empathy,and avoiding or criticizing each other.
Overall most of the couples reported moderately high levels of disclosure and low levels of holding back.
The study appears in the December 2005 issue of *Psycho-Oncology.*