Palliative and Supportive Care

Original Articles

Caregivers’ differing needs across key experiences of the advanced cancer disease trajectory

Lori L. DuBenskea1 c1, Kuang-Yi Wena1, David H. Gustafsona1, Charles A. Guarnacciaa2, James F. Clearya3, Susan K. Dinauera1 and Fiona M. Mctavisha1

a1 Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin

a2 Department of Psychology, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas

a3 Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin


Objectives: Familial caregivers are providing increasing amounts of care to advanced cancer patients. Increased understanding of caregivers’ needs is vital in providing necessary support to lessen caregiver burden and morbidity. Current literature has identified caregiver and patient needs at broad stages of the cancer trajectory; however, such broad stages may be too general to inform a practice of targeting specific interventions when they have the greatest utility. This study examines a variety of particular needs across a number of more discrete illness-related transition experiences specifically in the advanced cancer disease trajectory.

Methods: One hundred fifty-nine female informal caregivers of people with advanced cancer completed a needs assessment survey.

Results: Analyses of these cross-sectional retrospective-report data reveal that cancer caregiver needs vary across specific key experiences occurring within the broader stages of illness identified by current literature. Furthermore, caregivers have unique needs during bereavement.

Significance of results: Although the sample characteristics are demographically limited, this study provides preliminary evidence that the broad stages are not specific enough increments for effectively examining caregiver needs and supports the need for more precise distribution of cancer-related information at more discrete times in the illness course.

(Received July 16 2007)

(Accepted October 16 2007)


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Lori DuBenske, 1513 University Avenue, ME 4105, Madison, WI 53706. E-mail: