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2.8M Cancer Caregivers

By on October 6, 2016

Many family members who care for loved ones with cancer do not feel adequately prepared for the caregiving tasks they assume and need help to make informed decisions about end-of-life care, according to a new study.

“Our study found that many cancer caregivers experience high levels of emotional stress,” said Erin Kent, Ph.D., of the Healthcare Delivery Research Program in NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences. “Many caregivers need to perform medical or nursing tasks without feeling fully prepared or trained to carry them out.”

These tasks, Dr. Kent explained, can include changing wound dressings, managing infusion ports, and ensuring that patients follow complex regimens of oral medications. She presented the study findings at the 2016 American Society of Clinical Oncology Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium in San Francisco.

2.8 Million Cancer Caregivers in the United States

Researchers have had difficulty collecting specific data on the experiences of cancer caregivers, in part because caregivers are so busy, noted Dr. Kent.

To address this problem, she and her colleagues used data from an annual survey conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving. Based on data from the 2015 survey, the group estimates that 2.8 million individuals in the United States are providing informal care for an adult family member or friend with cancer.

Cancer caregivers devoted more hours to caregiving each week than did noncancer caregivers (32.9 hours versus 23.9 hours), the researchers found. Cancer caregivers were also more likely than noncancer caregivers to report caring for patients in “high-burden” situations, as measured by an index that factors in hours of caregiving per week and the level of assistance provided for activities of daily living such as bathing and feeding (62% versus 38%).

The new findings highlight the need for additional research to better understand at what point providers and clinicians should intervene to assess the well-being of caregivers, Dr. Kent added.


This article created by the National Cancer Institute staff.