Wellness programs offering a variety of supportive tools are needed for caregivers of patients with head and neck cancer, a study published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer has shown.1

Head and neck cancer caregivers often have poorer psychological health compared with patients and the general population, but wellness programs to reduce adverse psychological or physical health outcomes of this population are lacking.

Therefore, researchers sought to inform development of such programs by identifying potential vulnerabilities to poor outcomes and evaluate wellness program preferences among caregivers.

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For the study, researchers surveyed 33 caregivers to patients with head and neck cancer who were undergoing major surgery. Investigators analyzed sociodemographic factors, caregiving characteristics, psychological functioning, and health behavior data of the caregivers.

Results showed that 88% of caregivers lived with the patients, 73% provided daily care, 42% had a history of smoking, 45% had depressive symptoms, and 33% had increased anxiety.

Researchers found that most caregivers were interested in wellness programs, with nearly 72% being particularly interested in programs focusing on diet and exercise. Approximately 67%, 64%, and 58% were interested in programs about cancer education, stress reduction, and finances/caregiving/well-being, respectively.

Patients with more depressive symptoms were more likely to be interested in programs focusing on cancer education, stress reduction, and finance/caregiving/well-being.

Further, the study demonstrated that approximately 64% of caregivers desired the program during the patient’s medical treatment, with mail being the most preferred program format.


1. Nightingale CL, Sterba KR, Tooze JA, et al. Vulnerable characteristics and interest in wellness programs among head and neck cancer caregivers [published online ahead of print March 19, 2016]. Support Care Cancer. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00520-016-3160-z. Accessed March 25, 2016.