Caregivers can help give doctors a more complete update on brain cancer patients’ well-being, according to a study presented in advance of the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Daniel Jacobs, a clinical researcher at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the paper, explained that the research suggests how important it is for care givers to speak up if there is something more to be said. “A caregiver may help give a more complete clinical picture.”

“It is not just about treating a patient with chemotherapy, but also understanding the psychosocial aspects patients are dealing with,” said senior author Jeffrey Raizer, MD, co-director of the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute, associate professor of neurology at Feinberg and director of medical neuro-oncology at Northwester Memorial Hospital.

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The study involved 19 patients with recently diagnosed or re-diagnosed grade 3 or 4 malignant gliomas who filled out a questionnaire about their quality of life, rating physical, emotional, functional, and social well-being. The same questionnaire was completed by caregivers. The questionnaires were given out every two months when the patients were accompanied by their caregivers in the clinic for an MRI.

The findings revealed that despite grim prognoses and aggressive treatments, cancer patients suffering from malignant gliomas, primarily brain tumors, often rate their quality of life more optimistically than their caregivers do.