People who care for loved ones with cancer face more challenges than those who look after someone with other health problems, a new study reports.
“Caregiving can be extremely stressful and demanding — physically, emotionally, and financially,” said Erin Kent, a program director at the U.S. National Cancer Institute. “The data show we need to do a better job of supporting these individuals as their well-being is essential to the patient’s quality of life and outcomes.”
Researchers analyzed data from a 2015 national survey of more than 1,200 caregivers in the United States. Compared to other caregivers, cancer caregivers were 63 percent more likely to report a higher burden. They also spent nearly 50 percent more hours a week providing care.
Cancer caregivers were also more likely than other caregivers to communicate with health care professionals and to advocate on behalf of the patient. And they were nearly twice as likely to say they needed more help and information with making end-of-life decisions.
The study findings were scheduled for presentation Friday at an American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in San Francisco. The findings should be viewed as preliminary until peer-reviewed for publication in a medical journal.
“Our research demonstrates the ripple effect that cancer has on families and patient support systems,” Kent said in an ASCO news release.
This research provides a glimpse into some of the unique needs and challenges of caring for people with cancer, said ASCO expert Dr. Andrew Epstein.
“Ensuring that caregivers are well supported should be an essential component of high-quality cancer care,” he added.
About 2.8 million people in the United States provide care for an adult family member or friend with cancer, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on caring for the caregiver.