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Lynne Eldridge MD

Emotional Challenges of Family Caregivers of Lung Cancer Patients

By July 30, 2012

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Caring for a loved one with cancer can be immensely rewarding, but challenging and distressing at the same time. Studies suggest that efforts need to be made to assist family caregivers in ways to take care of their own emotional needs, while they provide physical and emotional support for their loved one with cancer.


What are these needs?

Researchers interviewed lung cancer family caregivers, asking what their greatest challenges were as a caregiver. Responses included:

  • Coping with the uncertainty about the future (38%)
  • Coping with the time-consuming efforts needed to manage the patient's emotional reaction to their cancer (33%)
  • Coping with the practical issues cancer patients face - such as coordinating medical appointments (14%)

Coping as a family caregiver can be difficult. Support groups for family caregivers exist, but they are far less common and more difficult to find than support groups for cancer patients. CancerCare is a n example of one not-for-profit organization that provides support to families going through cancer treatment.

A resource that I've found tremendously helpful and would recommend to anyone who is supporting a loved one with lung cancer is a book written by a loving friend of mine, Cynthia Siegfried. The book, Cancer Journey: A Caregiver's View from the Passenger Seat shares her thoughts, feelings, joys and sorrows as she plays the role of caregiver for her husband with cancer.

I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to both Cynthia and her husband Jim speak at the LUNGevity sponsored Hope Summit in Washington DC this spring.

In addition to sharing her personal journey, Cynthia shared some great tips for people who are caring for a loved one with lung cancer. Some of these include:

  • Develop an attitude of thankfulness
  • Be mentally prepared for unexpected results
  • Be prepared for mood swings - yours and the patients
  • Look for funny movies and books
  • Remember that often the fear of recurrence is worse than the actual recurrence
  • Don't waste your suffering

I wish I had time and space to share more here - but check out Cynthia's book as well as these articles:

Photo: National Cancer Institute, Rhoda Baer (photographer)


Mosher, C. et al. Distressed family caregivers of lung cancer patients: an examination of psychosocial and practical challenges. Supportive Care in Cancer. 2012 Jul 14. (Epub ahead of print)

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