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Informal carers: A focus on the real caregivers of people with cancer

Background: Those who become active caregivers out of their simple need to be included in their loved ones' experience may act as a force in the support and sustenance of the person with cancer. Apart from family members, individuals "considered as family" by the patient may actively participate in the patient's cancer journey. The purpose of this clinical review is to raise clinician awareness on the multiple responsibilities assumed and the impact of active caregiving experienced by informal carers of patients with cancer, also offering a number of practical suggestions to promote person-centred support. Patients & Methods: An electronic search for original and review articles published between January 1990 and July 2011 in three research and evidence databases (MedLine, CINAHL, EMBASE) was carried out using the terms "caregiver" and "cancer". Results: Informal caregivers are often required to assume numerous roles and make changes in their lives until they find themselves striving to balance a host of responsibilities. By being practically and emotionally involved, however, caregivers' own lives can be affected, sometimes overwhelmingly. The physical, emotional, social, and financial stress that caregivers can face in this role may result in the neglect of their own needs, adversely affecting their quality of life. Conclusions: Research-driven support interventions such as peer support groups or psychological/emotional therapy, as well as honest, open and personalised communication with health care professionals and ongoing assessment of their needs can be of utmost importance in supporting those who contribute the most to the patients' cancer journey.

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Forum of Clinical Oncology
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Scopus scopus - exported 1/8/16
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