Caregivers of patients with cancer report a higher burden and significantly more time providing care compared with caregivers of patients with other conditions, according to a study that will be presented at the 2016 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium in San Francisco, California.1

To assess the challenges of cancer caregivers, researchers analyzed data from the 2015 Caregiving in the US study. Results showed that cancer caregivers had a 63% higher likelihood of experiencing greater burden vs non-cancer caregivers.

Caregivers of patients with cancer also reported devoting nearly 50% more hours per week to provide care than non-cancer caregivers.

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Cancer caregivers were more likely to communicate with health care professionals and advocate on behalf of the patient, but despite higher engagement with clinicians, cancer caregivers were twice as likely as non-cancer caregivers to report needing more information and help with making end-of-life care decisions.

“Our research demonstrates the ripple effect that cancer has on families and patient support systems,” said study researcher Erin Kent, PhD, MS, program director in the Outcomes Research Branch of the Healthcare Delivery Research Program of the National Cancer Institute. “Caregiving can be extremely stressful and demanding – physically, emotionally, and financially. The data show we need to do a better job of supporting these individuals as their wellbeing is essential to the patient’s quality of life and outcomes.”

Further research is warranted to better understand when clinicians should intervene to evaluate the wellbeing of caregivers. Technology with a clinical distress rating system could be a promising approach to meaningfully support them.


1. Cancer caregivers experience unique burdens compared with those caring for patients with other conditions [news release]. Alexandria, VA: American Society of Clinical Oncology; September 7, 2016.