Social Support is Associated with Survival in Patients Diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Cancer

Patrick Bou-Samra, Paul Scott, Hannah Cheng, Cramer Kallem, Ritambhara Pathak, David A. Geller, Wallis Marsh, Yisi Wang, Michael Antoni, Frank Penedo, Allan Tsung, Jennifer L. Steel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine the link between psychological, behavioral, and social factors and survival in patients diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer. Methods: A cohort of gastrointestinal cancer patients were administered a battery of questionnaires that assessed trauma, depression, social support, sleep, diet, exercise, quality of life, tobacco and alcohol use, pain, and fatigue. Analyses included Pearson’s correlations, analyses of variance, Kaplan Meier survival, and Cox regression analyses. Results: Of the 568 patients, the majority were male (57.9%) and Caucasian (91.9%), with a mean age of 61 (S.D. = 10.7). The level of perceived social support was comparable to patients with other medical conditions. Sociodemographic predictors of social support included the number of years of education (r = 0.109, p = 0.05), marital status (F(6,387) = 5.465, p ≤ 0.001), and whether the patients’ income met the family’s basic needs (F(1,377) = 25.531, p < 0.001). Univariate analyses revealed that older age (p < 0.001), male gender (p = 0.007), being black (p = 0.005), diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (p = 0.046), higher body mass index (p = 0.022), larger tumor size (p = 0.032), initial treatment including chemotherapy rather than surgery (p < 0.001), and lower level of perceived social support (p = 0.037) were associated with poorer survival. Using multivariate Cox regression and adjusting for all factors found to be significant in univariate survival analyses, older age (p = 0.024) and lower perceived social support (HR = 0.441, 95% CI = 0.233, 0.833; p = 0.012) were the factors that remained significantly associated with poorer survival. Conclusion: There are several biological and psychosocial factors that predict cancer mortality. Social support appears to be a robust factor affecting mortality in gastrointestinal cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of gastrointestinal cancer
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Gastrointestinal neoplasms
  • Multivariate analysis
  • Protective factors
  • Social support
  • Survival analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Gastroenterology


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