Caregivers of men with prostate cancer suffer too
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Wives and other caregivers of men with prostate cancer may be at risk of anxiety, fatigue and other symptoms that exact a toll on the quality of their lives, a study suggests.
The findings, say researchers, suggest that many family caregivers need help as well -- for the sake of their own health and that of the cancer patient.
Of the 60 female caregivers in the study, 40 percent had significant anxiety symptoms, 12 percent were suffering from depression, and about one-third reported substantial fatigue or sleep disturbances. Another 15 percent complained of bodily pain, according to the findings published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The women, mostly wives, were 64 years old, on average, and their rates of each of these conditions surpassed the average for U.S. women their age, the researchers point out.
"A high percentage of family caregivers experienced clinically meaningful levels of a variety of symptoms," write Dr. Christine A. Miaskowski, of the University of California San Francisco, and her colleagues.
And those symptoms often took a toll on the women's daily lives. Those with higher levels of depression, anxiety and fatigue also had the lowest scores on a standard measure of quality of life.
According to Miaskowski's team, an estimated 44 million Americans care for an adult family member, and that number is expected to keep growing. Yet little has been known about how many of these caregivers suffer from their own psychological and physical symptoms.
The current findings, though based on a small study, suggest that many family caregivers of cancer patients have health problems that need attention.
Cancer specialists, Miaskowski's team writes, need to "be aware" of caregivers' symptoms as well, as it could affect the well-being of their patients.
SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Oncology, February 2008.