Cancer Caregivers Devote Substantial Time and Effort

On average, informal caregivers of cancer patients devote more than eight hours per day to caregiving. These results were published in Cancer.

Informal caregiving is an important part of cancer management. Family and friends often spend considerable time taking care of patients with cancer, which can result in lost wages. The recent emphasis on home care rather than hospitalization or nursing home care has increased this burden. However, little information is available about the extent of support given to persons with cancer.

To evaluate the time spent on cancer caregiving, along with the estimated cost of this care, researchers assessed information from a national survey of caregivers (The American Cancer Society’s Quality of Life Survey for Caregivers). The survey collected information from caregivers of patients with melanoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), or cancer of the bladder, breast, colon or rectum, kidney, lung, ovary, prostate, or uterus.

Cost estimates used a value of $16.28 per hour.

  • On average, caregivers provided an average of 8.3 hours of care per day for 13.7 months.
  • Patients with advanced cancer required more caregiving than patients with earlier-stage disease.
  • The estimated costs of caregiving were highest for patients with lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and NHL, and lowest for patients with breast cancer. During the two-year period after diagnosis, estimated costs of informal caregiving ranged from $72,702 for lung cancer to $38,334 for breast cancer.

The researchers concluded: “Time spent by informal caregivers was substantial and was an important component of the burden of cancer care.”

Reference: Yabroff KR, Kim Y. Time costs associated with informal caregiving for cancer survivors. Cancer. 115(18 suppl):4362-73.

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