The Impact of Cancer and Chronic Conditions on Caregivers and Family Members

  • Sylvie D. LambertEmail author
  • Janelle V. Levesque
  • Afaf Girgis


Caregiving by a family member or a friend is critical in maintaining and improving the health and well-being of individuals living with cancer, and in reducing demands on the health care system. The increased prevalence of cancer and co-morbidities is applying pressure on already stretched cancer care resources and high-quality cancer care now relies on caregivers taking on more and more complex illness management roles (once performed by health care professionals). Caregivers provide about 70–80 % of patients’ cancer care, the economic value of which is estimated to be at least in the millions. Although caregiving is a valued societal and financial resource, caregivers remain largely a hidden workforce. Caregivers often take on their roles and responsibilities with little to no formal training, leading to high levels of burden and lower quality of life for both the caregivers and the person they are caring for. Cancer caregivers are a particularly vulnerable sub-group, as they report higher burden than caregivers for individuals with diabetes or frail elders. Although across caregiver studies it might be assumed that many of the patients cared for have co-morbidities, this information is not always explicit and there are no studies specifically examining the burden endured by caregivers of patients with cancer and co-morbidities. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter is to summarize what is known about cancer caregiving and note how these findings might be extrapolated to begin to understand the issues faced by caregivers of patients with cancer and co-morbidities. The chapter provides an overview of caregivers’ roles in cancer care and the impact of this involvement on caregivers’ health and functioning; their patterns of health care services utilization; a description of the type of support caregivers require more of (unmet needs); and the effectiveness of interventions that can support caregivers throughout the cancer trajectory. A discussion of future directions for research and practice concludes this chapter.


Cancer Caregiver Family members Quality of life Psychosocial interventions 


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Further Reading

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    Lambert SD, Harrison JD, Smith E, Bonevski B, Carey M, Lawsin C, Paul C, Girgis A (2012) The unmet needs of partners and caregivers of adults diagnosed with cancer: a systematic review. BMJ Support Palliat Care 2(3):224–230. doi: 10.1136/bmjspcare-2012-000226 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Lambert SD, Jones B, Girgis A, Lecathelinais C (2012) Distressed partners and caregivers do not recover easily: adjustment trajectories among partners and caregivers of cancer survivors. Ann Behav Med 44(2):225–235. doi: 10.1007/s12160-012-9385-2 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sylvie D. Lambert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Janelle V. Levesque
    • 2
  • Afaf Girgis
    • 2
  1. 1.McGill University, St. Mary’s Research CentreMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Psycho-Oncology Research Group Centre for Oncology Education and Research Translation (CONCERT)Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research South Western Sydney Clinical School, University of New Sourth WalesSydneyAustralia

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