, Volume 15, Issue 12, pp 1367-1374
Date: 22 May 2007

Psychological distress of female cancer caregivers: effects of type of cancer and caregivers’ spirituality

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Abstract

Introduction

This study examined the effects of the survivor’s cancer type (gender-specific vs nongender-specific) and the female caregiver’s spirituality and caregiving stress on the caregiver’s psychological distress. Cancer caregivers, who were nominated by cancer survivors, participated in a nationwide quality-of-life survey with 252 caregivers providing complete data for the variables.

Patients and methods

Breast and ovarian cancer were categorized as gender-specific types of cancer (GTC+), whereas kidney, lung, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), and skin melanoma cancers were GTC-. Spirituality, caregiving stress, and psychological distress were measured using the functional assessment of chronic illness therapy—spiritual well-being, stress overload subscale, and profile of mood states—short form, respectively.

Results and discussion

Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that female caregivers whose care recipient was diagnosed with a nongender specific type of cancer (GTC- group) reported higher psychological distress than did the GTC+ group. The GTC- group also reported lower spirituality and higher caregiving stress related to higher psychological distress than did the GTC+ group. In addition, the beneficial effect of spirituality on reducing psychological distress was more pronounced among the GTC- group or when caregiving stress increased.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that female caregivers of survivors with a nongender-specific cancer may benefit from programs designed to reduce their psychological distress, and caregivers who are low in spirituality need help to derive faith and meaning in the context of cancer care.