The use of coping strategies and prognostic understanding among patients with incurable cancer were associated with depression and anxiety symptoms in family caregivers, a study published in Annals of Oncology has shown.1

Family caregivers play a vital role in the lives of patients with cancer, but they can also experience psychological distress associated with caregiving demands. Therefore, researchers sought to investigate the rates of depression and anxiety among family caregivers of patients with incurable cancer and identify factors linked to these symptoms.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 275 family caregivers of patients who participated in a randomized trial of early palliative care. Depression and anxiety were assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale in patients within 8 weeks of diagnosis of incurable gastrointestinal or lung cancer and their caregivers. Investigators also evaluated patients’ quality of life, their coping strategies, and the primary goal of their cancer treatment.

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Results showed that there was no significant difference in the proportion of family caregivers and patients reporting depression (16.4% vs 21.5%; P = .13); however, family caregivers were more likely to report anxiety symptoms compared with patients (42.2% vs 28.4%; P < .001).

Researchers found that the patients’ use of acceptance coping was associated with lower depression among family caregivers (P < .001), while emotional support coping was associated with higher depression (P = .001) and lower anxiety (P < .001) in caregivers.

The study further demonstrated that caregivers of patients who reported that their primary goal of treatment was to “cure my cancer” were more likely to have depression (P = .03).

The findings ultimately highlight the importance of developing interventions that target these risk factors to reduce psychological distress experienced by family caregivers of patients with incurable cancer.


1. Nipp RD, El-Jawahri A, Fishbein JN, et al. Factors associated with depression and anxiety symptoms in family caregivers of patients with incurable cancer [published online ahead of print May 13, 2016]. Ann Oncol. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdw205.