Understanding the characteristics of US cancer survivors with informal caregivers

Cancer. 2021 Aug 1;127(15):2752-2761. doi: 10.1002/cncr.33535. Epub 2021 May 4.


Background: Although informal caregivers such as family and friends provide people with cancer needed physical care and emotional support, little is known about which individuals have access to such caregivers. The purpose of this article is to provide a nationally representative description of the sociodemographic characteristics of cancer survivors who have or had an informal caregiver in the United States.

Methods: Cross-sectional data were taken from the Experiences With Cancer Survivorship Supplement of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey in 2011, 2016, and 2017. People were cancer survivors from diagnosis until the end of life. The study population consisted of adult survivors of cancer other than nonmelanoma skin cancer who were treated for cancer less than 3 years before the survey and were living in the community (n = 720). The main outcome measure was whether or not the cancer survivor reported having an informal caregiver.

Results: In the United States, 55.2% of cancer survivors reported having an informal caregiver during or after their cancer treatment. The relationship of the caregiver to the survivor varied by sex: males were more likely to have a spouse as their caregiver, and females were more likely to have a child as their caregiver. In multivariate analyses, cancer survivors who were female, were married, were of a race/ethnicity other than White, or were in poor health were more likely to have an informal caregiver.

Conclusions: Future research can examine whether those without informal caregivers might need more formal support as they undergo cancer treatment and transition into cancer survivorship.

Keywords: cancer; cancer survivor; informal caregiver.