Claremont, Calif. (March 2, 2012) — Pitzer College Assistant Professor of Psychology KaMala Thomas will address the American Psychosomatic Society during the organization’s annual meeting March 14-17 in Athens, Greece. Thomas will discuss her recent study that found that spouses of men with prostate cancer report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder which puts their own health at risk.
In Thomas’ study, interviews with women who are married to men with prostate cancer revealed that the women experience significant levels of fear and anxiety. Blood and saliva samples were taken to measure immune activity and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Compared to women whose partners had no history of cancer, women in Thomas’ study had higher levels of interleukin-6, an inflammatory immune marker that has been linked to risk for heart disease, arthritis, type-2 diabetes and some cancers. They also had lower levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands during stress.
Thomas’ talk will propose that these findings highlight the importance of providing emotional support and resources to spouses who serve as caregivers to men with prostate cancer. Giving the caregivers support during the early phases of cancer diagnosis and treatment could potentially prevent some psychological issues and have long-term health benefits.
Thomas is serving on the American Psychosomatic Society’s 2012 program committee.