Relationship quality and psychophysiological distress for underserved breast cancer patients and their caregiver before treatment

Patricia N.E. Roberson, Gina Cortez, Teri Freeman, Jillian Lloyd, Jordan Tasman, Sarah B. Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Breast cancer patients and caregivers experience biobehavioral reactivity (e.g., depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue) during breast cancer treatment which predicts cancer recurrence and mortality. High quality patient-caregiver relationships can mitigate this distress during treatment, but this association is unclear pre-treatment. Identifying early interventions that target high risk Appalachian patients could impact biobehavioral reactivity. Methods: We recruited 55 breast cancer patient-caregiver dyads to complete a self-report survey after diagnosis but before treatment. We used a series of Actor-Partner Interdependence Models to test the hypotheses that both patient and caregiver relationship quality would be linked to their own and their partners' biobehavioral reactivity. Results: Caregiver reported marital quality lower caregiver anxiety, patient anxiety, caregiver depression, patient depression, caregiver pain, and caregiver fatigue. Interestingly, patient-reported marital quality was linked with higher caregiver anxiety, higher patient anxiety, lower patient depression, and lower patient pain. Patients reported family quality was linked to lower patient and caregiver pain. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that pre-treatment marital and family quality levels are directly related to psychophysiological measures in both the caregiver and the patient, though sometimes in unexpected directions. Additionally, our findings potentially reveal an opportunity to intervene at the time of diagnosis to improve relationship quality, impacting patient and caregiver psychophysiological outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1904-1912
Number of pages9
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • anxiety
  • appalachia
  • cancer
  • caregiver
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • marriage
  • oncology
  • pain
  • relationship quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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