The influence of the patient-oncologist alliance may go beyond the patient to positively affect the informal caregiver, and this benefit may extend into bereavement, a new study published online ahead of print in the journal Cancer has shown.
For the prospective, longitudinal, multicenter Coping with Cancer study, researchers enrolled 68 terminally ill cancer patients with a life expectancy of no more than 6 months and their informal caregivers.
Caregivers were followed into bereavement. Patients answered questions about how they perceived their relationship with their oncologist, caregivers completed a health-related quality of life (HRQoL) questionnaire, and interviewers rated the emotional well-being of caregivers.
Results showed that a strong patient-oncologist alliance was associated with caregiver self-report of less role limitation due to emotional problems, better mental HRQoL, better general HRQoL, better social function, and better interviewer-rated emotional well-being after the patient’s death.
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Researchers found that the association between patient-perceived alliance and bereaved caregivers’ interviewer ratings of bereaved caregivers’ emotional status and mental health remained significant after adjusting for confounding factors.
The findings suggest that a strong relationship between an oncologist and patient can benefit the relationship between the caregiver and patient.