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Surviving cancer as a caregiver

Caring for yourself so you can care for others

The diagnosis and treatment of cancer has a significant impact, not only on the patient, but on their entire family, especially for the person who takes on the role as the primary caregiver. 1

A caregiver’s contribution makes up a critical component of any healthcare system and cannot be overstated. From helping to make medical appoints and administering medications, to assiting with personal care like bathing and dressing, the caregiver picks up where the formal healthcare system leaves off, thus ensuring better outcomes for millions of cancer survivors globally. 2 However, they are rarely trained for this role and are often not provided with information or support. 1 Often times they are juggling work, childminding, shopping, cooking and other household chores on top of this caregiving role. 1 As a result, they may experience high stress levels. 2

Caregiving is labour intensive, with about ¼ of those caring for cancer patients spending more than 40 hours per week providing these services to family or friends. 3 The stress of providing this care can also lead to detrimental changes in the caregiver’s physical and psychological health, immune function, and financial well-being. 2-4 In some cases, the psychological impact of cancer on the caregiver can exceed that of the patient, leading to long-term health consequences such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression. 4,5,6 Female patients and female caregivers report more distress than their male counterparts. 7 However, female caregivers have the highest distress of all – they spend more time providing care, provide more complex care, perceive less support from others and have more noncancer-related stress than male caregivers. 7 Despite this, caregivers rarely seek help, often suppressing their own needs to focus on the needs of their loved ones. 2,3

Ask yourself the following TASK questions: 7



Do you have what you need (knowledge, time, finances, support) to provide the best care possible to the cancer patient?


Able to juggle

Are you able to juggle your caregiving responsibilities with your other day-to-day responsibilities?



Are you taking care of yourself? (taking time for yourself, following a healthy lifestyle, getting enough sleep, looking after your physical health?)


Keeping spirits up

Are you keeping your spirits up?

If you answered “No” to any of these questions, then you may be at risk for caregiver strain and psychological distress. 7 Download our Support of cancer patient caregivers guide for helpful tips on how to take care of yourself, so that you can take care of others. Remember, you cannot be a capable and sustainable caregiver if you don’t take care of your own physical and psychological health first.


About Life Oncology 

Life Oncology is a dedicated oncology and radiotherapy service under the Life Healthcare network. Our prime objective is to revolutionise the cancer treatment journey by embracing a patient-centric and value-based model, supporting our patients and their families throughout their treatment journeys. To support this journey, we ensure that our care is coordinated, integrated, and personalised.

To download other cancer educational information, check the download section on the Life Oncology page here.

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE. Life Healthcare Group Ltd does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by the reader as a result of the information provided.



  1. Masa AJ, Martinez-Bredeck H, Butler TL, Anderson K, Girgis A, Aoun SM, et al. The experiences of caregivers of Indigenous cancer survivors in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States: a systematic review. J Psycholosoc Oncol Res Pract 2020;2(4):1-12.
  2. Hoeg BL, Bidstrup P. Informal caregivers: the invisible people caring for cancer survivors. [online] 2020 Nov 26 [cited 2023 Apr 24]. Available from: URL:
  3. Bevans MF, Sternberg EM. Caregiving Burden, Stress, and Health Effects Among Family Caregivers of Adult Cancer Patients. JAMA 2012;307(4):398-403.
  4. Northouse LL. Helping Patients and Their Family Caregivers Cope With Cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum 2012;39(5):500-506.
  5. Jansson MRN, von Heymann-Horan A, Rasmussen BK, Albieri V, Frederiksen K, Suppli N, et al. Risk for use of antidepressants, anxiolytics, and hypnotics in partners of glioma patients – A nationwide study covering 19 years of prescriptions. Psycho-Oncol 2018;27:1930-1936.
  6. Salem H, Andersen EW, Dalton SO, Schmiegelow K, Winther JF, Lichtenthal WG, et al. Use of psychotropic medication in parents of children diagnosed with cancer: a population-based study. Pediatr 2019;143(5):doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2605.
  7. Northouse LL, Katapodi MC, Schafenacker AM, Weiss D. The Impact of Caregiving on the Psychological Well-Being of Family Caregivers and Cancer Patients. Sem Oncol Nurs 2012;28(4):236-245.