Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Family Caregivers in Cancer: Roles and Challenges (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI]

Font Size

Overview

Approximately 1.6 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2013.[1] Many patients diagnosed with cancer will eventually require support from a family caregiver. In fact, family caregivers form the foundation of the health care system in the United States, supporting advances in treatment such as multimodality treatment protocols given in outpatient and home settings.[2]

Definition: Who Is the Caregiver?

Recommended Related to Cancer

About This PDQ Summary

Purpose of This Summary This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about endometrial cancer prevention. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions. Reviewers and Updates This summary is reviewed regularly and updated as necessary by the PDQ Screening and Prevention...

Read the About This PDQ Summary article > >

Also referred to as informal caregivers, family caregivers provide a complex array of support tasks that extend across physical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional domains.[3] Generally speaking, more women than men become caregivers, most caregivers are related to the person who has cancer, and most caregivers are aged 55 years or older.[4,5]

Family caregivers play an important role in the management of cancer; enlisting their cooperation and including them as the unit of care from the outset are considered critical ingredients to effective cancer management. Most oncology teams recognize this and try to include family caregivers in treatment planning, decision making, and implementation.[6] However, for interventions to be feasible, they must be appropriate within the constraints of busy oncology practices and service delivery environments.[7] Short-term hospital admissions may also restrict the time available to implement supportive strategies for caregivers.

Information about the following is included in this summary:

  • An overview of the caregiver's perspective across the illness trajectory in cancer.
  • Typical caregiver roles and concerns.
  • Helpful interventions.

In this summary, unless otherwise stated, evidence and practice issues as they relate to adults are discussed. The evidence and application to practice related to children may differ significantly from information related to adults. When specific information about the care of children is available, it is summarized under its own heading.

References:

  1. American Cancer Society.: Cancer Facts and Figures 2013. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2013. Available online. Last accessed March 13, 2013.
  2. Schumacher KL, Stewart BJ, Archbold PG, et al.: Effects of caregiving demand, mutuality, and preparedness on family caregiver outcomes during cancer treatment. Oncol Nurs Forum 35 (1): 49-56, 2008.
  3. Honea NJ, Brintnall R, Given B, et al.: Putting Evidence into Practice: nursing assessment and interventions to reduce family caregiver strain and burden. Clin J Oncol Nurs 12 (3): 507-16, 2008.
  4. Alecxih LMB, Zeruld S, Olearczyk B: Characteristics of Caregivers Based on the Survey of Income and Program Participation. National Family Caregiver Support Program: Selected Issue Briefs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging, 2001.
  5. Sherwood PR, Given BA, Given CW, et al.: Predictors of distress in caregivers of persons with a primary malignant brain tumor. Res Nurs Health 29 (2): 105-20, 2006.
  6. Glajchen M: The emerging role and needs of family caregivers in cancer care. J Support Oncol 2 (2): 145-55, 2004 Mar-Apr.
  7. Hudson PL, Aranda S, Kristjanson LJ: Meeting the supportive needs of family caregivers in palliative care: challenges for health professionals. J Palliat Med 7 (1): 19-25, 2004.
1

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Hot Topics

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

tea
What you should eat.
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Is yours working?
woman using breath spray
What's causing yours?
colon xray
Get the facts.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
Eat for a healthy heart.
woman doing pushups
To help you get fit.
Colored x-ray of tooth decay
Know what to look for.
Woman sitting with child
Do you know the symptoms?
fruit drinks
Foods that can help you focus.
Sad dog and guacamole
Don't feed this to your dog.
Thyroid exam
See how much you know.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.