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Mental Distress Of Caregivers Often Overlooked Affecting Care Of Cancer Patients, Says AIIMS Study

Dr Abhishek Shankar, Associate Professor at the Department of Radiation Oncology and one of the authors of the study, said 54 per cent of the respondents considered the cancer patient a burden while 55 per cent admitted to having major financial concerns over the treatment and disease management.

Medical Students at AIIMS
Department of Radiation Oncology at AIIMS Patna to determine the quality of life of the caregivers of cancer patients. Delhi-Photo by Narender Bisht

Caregivers of people suffering from cancer go through psychological distress which is often overlooked, affecting their quality of life and also patient care, according to a study by doctors of AIIMS Patna. 

The study was conducted from July 2020 to March 2021 at the Department of Radiation Oncology at AIIMS Patna to determine the quality of life of the caregivers of cancer patients.

A total of 350 caregivers were approached, out of which 264 were found eligible for final analysis. They were asked 31 questions that included seven on the burden on caregivers, 13 on disruptiveness in daily routine, eight on how they positively adapted to the overall situation and three on financial concerns.

The finding of the study, led by Dr Amrita Rakesh, was published in the international peer-reviewed journal Cancer Treatment and Research Communications by Elsevier in June. 

Dr Abhishek Shankar, Associate Professor at the Department of Radiation Oncology and one of the authors of the study, said 54 per cent of the respondents considered the cancer patient a burden while 55 per cent admitted to having major financial concerns over the treatment and disease management.

Almost 62 per cent felt their daily routine has changed and around 38 per cent of respondents said they positively adapted to the changed situation over a period of time, Dr Shankar said. The caregivers were also interviewed for point psychological distress assessment. 

"A strong correlation was found between the caregivers with poor quality of life and severity of psychological distress," the doctor said. Lead author Dr Rakesh said the study took longer than what was proposed in the protocol due to the COVID-19 pandemic which led to fewer people visiting the hospital for cancer treatment. 

"As the focus on cancer care is rising, there is also a need to focus on the wellbeing of caregivers. The quality of life of these caregivers can have a direct impact on the overall management of their patients.

"So, there should be a periodic check to identify these already stressed or at risk of psychological distress caregivers and provide adequate support to them as well," added co-author Dr Pritanjali Singh who is an additional professor and Head of Radiation Oncology at AIIMS, Patna. 

The incidence of cancer has increased manyfold over the past years and has made its way into the top 10 leading causes of death globally according to the World Health Organisation's 2019 global health estimates, the study mentioned.

Deaths due to trachea, bronchus, and lungs have risen from 1.2 million to 1.8 million, now ranking sixth among the leading causes of death globally. Stomach cancer holds the ninth position in the upper-middle-income countries while colon and rectal cancers stand seventh among the leading causes of death in high-income countries, the study mentioned.

(With PTI inputs)

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