Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 19, Issue 12, pp 1949–1956 | Cite as

Loss of lifestyle: health behaviour and weight changes after becoming a caregiver of a family member diagnosed with ovarian cancer

  • Vanessa L. BeesleyEmail author
  • Melanie A. Price
  • Penelope M. Webb
  • Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group
  • Australian Ovarian Cancer Study—Quality of Life Study Investigators
Original Article



Little is known about how caring for someone affects the caregiver's health behaviours. We explore behaviour changes and their determinants in caregivers of women with ovarian cancer.


Caregivers of 101 women with ovarian cancer completed a questionnaire 1.5–6 years after their family member's cancer diagnosis, providing information about their current health behaviours, height, weight and changes in these compared with pre-diagnosis. Information about the impact of ovarian cancer, other stressful events and distress was also collected for patients and caregivers. Logistic regression was used to determine characteristics associated with negative changes.


Half (54%) of caregivers did not meet Australian physical activity guidelines, 71% were overweight/obese, 40% ate <2 serves of fruit and 80% <5 serves of vegetables/day, 37% consumed >2 alcoholic drinks/occasion and 10% were smokers. Overall, 56% reported ≥1 negative change since their family member’s diagnosis, with many decreasing their physical activity (42%) and/or gaining weight (35%). Caregivers were more likely to report negative changes if they had only school-level education (OR 3.0, 95%CI 1.1–8.4), they were unable to carry out usual daily activities due to caregiving (OR 2.0, 95%CI 0.7–5.4), they were clinically distressed (OR 3.4, 95%CI 1.1–10.1) or caring for a woman whose disease impacted on her usual daily activities (OR 4.3, 95%CI 1.4–13.2).


Many caregivers of women with ovarian cancer do not meet Australian health guidelines and more than half describe negative changes after becoming a caregiver. More attention should be given to cancer caregivers with high physical and emotional demands.


Caregivers Ovarian cancer Health behaviours Body mass Risk factors 



AOCS-QoL was funded by the Cancer Councils of New South Wales and Queensland. Vanessa Beesley was funded by an NHMRC post-doctoral award, Penelope Webb by an NHMRC Research Fellowship and Melanie Price by a Research Fellowship from the School of Psychology at The University of Sydney. We thank Lynley Aldridge, Diana Grivas, Naomi McGowan and Rebekah Cicero for their help with the data tracking and management within the concurrent studies and all the women and their caregivers who gave their time to participate. We also acknowledge the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the Cancer Council Tasmania, the Cancer Foundation of Western Australia and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia for their AOCS funding as well as support from the Australian state-based Cancer Registries, collaborating institutions and investigators represented within the AOCS group listed at

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vanessa L. Beesley
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Melanie A. Price
    • 2
  • Penelope M. Webb
    • 1
  • Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group
    • 1
  • Australian Ovarian Cancer Study—Quality of Life Study Investigators
    • 2
  1. 1.Queensland Institute of Medical ResearchGynaecological Cancers GroupBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.The University of SydneyCentre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-based, Decision-making, School of PsychologySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Queensland Institute of Medical ResearchGynaecological Cancers GroupHerstonAustralia

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