Nearly 25% to 33% of family caregivers of patients with advanced cancers report high levels of anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as significant time providing care, a study that will be presented at the 2016 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium in San Francisco, California, has shown.1

For the cross-sectional study, investigators surveyed 294 family caregivers of Medicare beneficiaries with brain, head and neck, hematologic, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, or stage 4 cancers. The questionnaire evaluates self-care behaviors and quality of life measures.

Results showed that nearly 25% of respondents reported a high level of depressive symptoms and greater than one-third reported borderline or high levels of anxiety symptoms.

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Worse caregiver anxiety, depression, and mental health-related quality of life were significantly associated with lower self-care scores (P <.05).

Lower self-care scores were also associated with longer durations of caregivers and with fair or poor patient health.

“Caregivers and patients are faced with an enormous physical and emotional toll when dealing with advanced cancer,” said J. Nicholas Dionne-Odom, PhD, RN, and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and lead author. “When they put their own health and wellbeing on the back burner, it can affect their care to the patient.”

Additional research is necessary to develop assessment tools and services that support caregivers during their important role of caring for a person with advanced cancer.


1. Family caregivers for patients with advanced cancer often experience high levels of anxiety, depression [news release]. Alexandria, VA: American Society of Clinical Oncology; September 6, 2016.