Understanding and Supporting Informal Cancer Caregivers

Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2022 Apr;23(4):494-513. doi: 10.1007/s11864-022-00955-3. Epub 2022 Mar 14.


Informal caregivers invest a significant amount of time and effort to provide cancer patients with physical, psychological, information, and social support. These challenging tasks can harm their own health and well-being, while a series of social-ecological factors may also influence the outcomes of cancer caregiving. Several instruments have been developed to help clinicians and researchers understand the multi-dimensional needs and concerns of caregivers. A growing body of evidence indicates that supportive interventions including psychoeducation, skills training, and therapeutic counseling can help improve the burden, information needs, coping strategies, physical functioning, psychological well-being, and quality of life of caregivers. However, there is difficulty in translating research evidence into practice. For instance, some supportive interventions tested in clinical trial settings are regarded as inconsistent with the actual needs of caregivers. Other significant considerations are the lack of well-trained interdisciplinary teams for supportive care provision and insufficient funding. Future research should include indicators that can attract decision-makers and funders, such as improving the efficient utilization of health care services and satisfaction of caregivers. It is also important for researchers to work closely with key stakeholders, to facilitate evidence dissemination and implementation, to benefit caregivers and the patient.

Keywords: Cancer; Informal caregivers; Quality of life; Supportive care; Unmet needs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Caregivers* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Support