Background: Receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment often imposes a significant psychological burden on both the individual and carer. High carer burden has been observed across three specific phases; the trauma associated with the diagnosis, the physiological impact of treatment, and the challenges of survivorship.
Aim: To examine carer burden, depression and unmet needs among carers of people newly diagnosed with cancer and identify associations between carer/people with cancer characteristics.
Methods: Seventy-one dyads of people newly diagnosed with cancer and their carers, aged 18 years and older, were recruited from four Australian hospitals. These health services included both private/public and urban/rural settings, representing a socially diverse population. People with cancer attending cycles’ 2-5 of adjuvant chemotherapy or fraction 2-10 for radiotherapy and receiving treatment with curative intent, were eligible to participate in the study. Carers completed the Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI), Caregiver Reaction Assessment (CRA, self-esteem subscale), Supportive Care Needs Survey-Partners & Carers (SCNS-P&C45), and both groups completed the Centre of Epidemiology-Depression Scale (CES-D).
Results: Overall, 65% of carers reported at least one, 45% at least three, 39% at least five, and 23% at least 10 unmet needs; 42% of carers reported significant burden and 34% of carers and 38% of patients were at risk for clinical depression. A moderate association was observed between burden and unmet needs (r=0.41, p<0.01), burden and carer depression (r=0.48, p<0.01), and between unmet needs and carer depression (r=0.44, p<0.01). Regression analysis showed that large household size was significantly associated with increased burden, carer’s young age and small household size with moderate/high unmet needs, patient depression with carer’s level of self-esteem.
Conclusions: These findings highlight the need for tailored intervention strategies to systematically support the practical and psychological needs of carers of people with cancer at the early stages of treatment.