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The role of informal caregivers during cancer patients’ recovery from chemotherapy

journal contribution
posted on 2013-03-01, 00:00 authored by Cherene OckerbyCherene Ockerby, Trish LivingstonTrish Livingston, Beverly O'Connell, Cadeyrn GaskinCadeyrn Gaskin
Aims:  (i) To investigate the availability, perceived importance and roles of informal caregivers in the recovery of patients treated at day oncology centres and (ii) identify differences between patients with and without informal caregivers in the extent to which they experienced symptoms, and the level of bother symptoms caused.

Method:  Patients from three Australian hospitals (n = 122) were recruited during cycles 1 or 2 of adjuvant chemotherapy. Participants completed a modified version of the Rotterdam Symptom Checklist (RSCL) each day for 5 days after chemotherapy. A telephone interview conducted 10 days post-treatment explored the availability, importance and roles of caregivers. During the interview, participants also completed the modified RSCL in which they were asked about the extent to which they experienced, and were bothered by, each symptom over the prior 5 days combined.

Results:  Overall, 71% of participants had an informal caregiver in the 5 days postchemotherapy, commonly a partner. More women (71%) than men (48%) had a caregiver (p < 0.05). Caregivers were perceived to be highly important; they were more important for women than men (U = 213.50, p < 0.01). The most common assistance caregivers provided was meal preparation and emotional support and companionship. On days 6–10 postchemotherapy, the extent to which overall physical symptoms were experienced was higher for patients with a caregiver than without (U = 987.50, p < 0.05); similarly their symptoms caused more bother (U = 966.00, p < 0.01).

Conclusions:  These findings highlighted the importance of informal caregivers to patients postchemotherapy. It is imperative that patients are informed of the importance of this support so a caregiver can be arranged, if possible. Understanding the needs of patients following chemotherapy would enable health professionals to advise patients, with or without caregivers, how to best prepare for and manage their recovery at home.



Scandinavian journal of caring sciences






147 - 155


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd


Stockholm, Sweden







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2012, Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd