Role and gender differences in cancer-related distress: a comparison of survivor and caregiver self-reports

B Alex Matthews
Oncology Nursing Forum 2003, 30 (3): 493-9

PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES: To examine role and gender differences on measures of psychological distress as a consequence of dealing with cancer.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional, descriptive, quantitative analyses of retrospective survey data.

SETTING: A large, nonprofit, volunteer-based cancer organization. The sample was recruited through an online cancer survivor's network (61%), a rural event (24%), and hospital registries (15%).

SAMPLE: Convenience sample of 135 cancer survivors matched to their family caregivers (N = 270).

METHODS: Dyads (i.e., survivors and family caregivers) completed matched questionnaires requesting demographic and medical information and measures of cancer-related distress.

MAIN RESEARCH VARIABLES: Role (i.e., survivor or caregiver), gender, and psychological distress.

FINDINGS: Caregiver means on overall psychological distress were significantly higher than those shown for survivors. Caregiver scores were significantly higher on distress for diagnosis and fear of cancer recurrence. Females scored higher than male caregivers on cancer-related anxiety, future uncertainties, fear of recurrence, and future diagnostic tests. Gender differences were not found for survivor distress.

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest a need for gender-specific, dyad-tailored cancer support services.

IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING: As expert caregivers, nurses can provide valuable assistance with the caregiving process that may decrease distress during the family's cancer experience and adaptation period.

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