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Cancer. 2015 May 1;121(9):1513-9. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29223. Epub 2015 Feb 11.

When do we need to care about the caregiver? Supportive care needs, anxiety, and depression among informal caregivers of patients with cancer and cancer survivors.

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Department of General Internal Medicine and Psychosomatics, Heidelberg University Hospital, Heidelberg, Germany.



Cancer not only affects patients but also their caregivers. The objective of the current study was to assess the unmet needs of cancer caregivers and to identify possible predictors of their supportive care needs.


In a cross-sectional survey, 188 dyads of patients diagnosed with lung, urological, or gastrointestinal cancer and their primary caregivers were recruited. Caregivers were asked to complete the Supportive Care Needs Survey self-report questionnaire (for partners and caregivers); patients completed the corresponding questionnaire. Both groups provided information regarding their distress (National Comprehensive Cancer Network Distress Thermometer), anxiety, and depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-4). Clinical characteristics were obtained from medical records.


The mean age of the caregivers was 57.8 years. Approximately 72.3% were female. Patients had an average age of 62.5 years, with 33.0% being male. Caregivers were more distressed (P<.01) and exhibited higher anxiety scores (P<.01) compared with patients. Approximately 14.4% of caregivers reported no unmet need and 43.6% had at least 10 needs that were unmet. Main caregiver concerns were regarding health care service and information needs followed by emotional and psychological needs. To some degree, unmet needs in patients and caregivers' anxiety predicted unmet caregiver needs. Sociodemographic and clinical variables were not found to be significant predictors.


A substantial percentage of caregivers have unmet needs for support, mainly with regard to fears concerning the patient's condition, receiving disease-related information, and emotional support for themselves. Prediction of unmet needs in caregivers from other clinical and psychological variables was rather poor. Therefore, by means of the frequency and disparity of caregivers unmet needs, they should be systematically assessed to direct specific offers.


anxiety; caregivers; depression; family; health services needs; neoplasms; spouses

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