It is difficult to draw firm conclusions from research undertaken to date regarding the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions for carers of individuals living with cancer but it should be noted that the content of a few interventions may be perceived as insensitive to some individuals

In June 2019 researchers from the UK published their review of the medical scientific literature to assess the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions designed to improve the quality of life, physical health and well-being of carers of individuals living with cancer. A total of 19 studies, involving almost 4,000 individuals, met the search criteria and were included in the review. The studies involved carers of individuals who had been diagnosed with different types of cancer. Some individuals were newly diagnosed, whilst others were awaiting treatment, were undergoing treatment or had completed treatment. The majority of studies involved psychosocial interventions, eg providing information and/or teaching coping techniques, how to communicate or problemā€solving skills to manage symptoms or to improve relationships. Some of the interventions involved the carer only or both the carer and individual living with cancer. It was noted that all the trials had a high risk of bias and that the quality of evidence was mainly low or of very low quality. Results showed that psychosocial interventions may slightly improve the carer’s quality of life immediately following the intervention although 12 months’ later the intervention was seen to have had little or no effect. In addition, the psychosocial interventions were seen to have little or no effect on the carer’s depression, anxiety or psychological distress. There was also uncertainty as to whether psychosocial interventions improved the quality of life of the individual living with cancer, as well as having little to no effect on their physical health, depression, anxiety and psychological distress. Three studies reported adverse effects associated with the interventions, including higher distress, sexual function-related distress and lower relationship satisfaction levels for carers, and higher distress levels for the individuals living with cancer. Some of the content of the inteventions was also perceived as insensitive to some individuals. The researchers concluded that relationship quality and other psychosocial interventions, eg meditation, may be a more helpful intervention for carers.

Treanor CJ et al. Psychosocial Interventions for Informal Caregivers of People Living With Cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019 Jun 17;6(6):CD009912.

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