Cancer burdens not only the patients themselves but also their personal environment. A few studies have already focused on the mental health and personal needs of caregivers of patients. The purpose of this retrospective analysis was to further assess the emotional burden and unmet needs for support of caregivers in a population of brain metastasis patients. In the time period 2013-2020, we identified 42 informal caregivers of their respective patients after palliative radiation treatment for brain metastases. The caregivers completed two standardized questionnaires about different treatment aspects, their emotional burden, and unmet needs for support. Involvement of psycho-oncology and palliative care was examined in a chart review. The majority of the caregivers (71.4%, n = 30) suffered from high emotional burden during cancer treatment of their relatives and showed unmet needs for emotional and psychosocial support, mostly referring to information needs and the involvement in the patient's treatment decisions. Other unmet needs referred to handling personal needs and fears of dealing with the sick cancer patient in terms of practical care tasks and appropriate communication. Palliative care was involved in 30 cases and psycho-oncology in 12 cases. There is a high need for emotional and psychosocial support in informal caregivers of cancer patients. There might still be room for an improvement of psychosocial and psycho-oncological support. Care planning should cater to the emotional burden and unmet needs of informal caregivers as well. Further prospective studies in larger samples should be performed in order to confirm this analysis.
Keywords: brain metastases; emotional burden; informal caregivers; needs for support; palliative care.