Family support in advanced cancer

CA Cancer J Clin. Jul-Aug 2001;51(4):213-31. doi: 10.3322/canjclin.51.4.213.


Changes in the health care system have resulted in a shift of cancer care from the in-patient arena to ambulatory and home settings. This shift has likewise translated into increased family involvement in the day-to-day care of the person with cancer. Cancer patients have multifaceted needs, including disease and treatment monitoring, symptom management, medication administration, emotional support, assistance with personal care, and assistance with instrument care. Family caregivers may be ill prepared to assume these tasks, requiring information on the disease and treatment, as well as instruction in technical and care skills. Moreover, caregiving must be balanced against already established roles and role responsibilities. In addition, family caregivers have their own emotional responses to the patients' diagnosis and prognosis, and may require coaching and emotional support themselves. The health care system can facilitate positive outcomes by embracing the family caregiver as a partner in the health care team, providing instruction and guidance to the caregiver as he/she assumes this role, and evaluating the home care situation. Research to date has only scratched the surface of testing interventions that meet the needs of the cancer caregiver. A research agenda is proposed to more fully elucidate the cancer caregiver's experience throughout the illness and treatment trajectory, and identify the means to effecting positive outcomes for the person with cancer, their family caregiver, and the health care system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Pain, Intractable / therapy
  • Psychotherapy