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A prospective study of psychological distress among patients with advanced cancer and their caregivers.

Cancer Medicine 2023 March 20
BACKGROUND: Cancer can impact the psychological well-being of both patients and their informal caregivers. We investigated the joint trajectories of psychological distress among Singaporean advanced cancer patients-caregiver dyads. We also examined predictors of trajectory group membership.

METHODS: This study utilised data from 299 patients with advanced solid cancer and their caregivers over 33 months (12 times points). Group-based trajectory modelling was used to examine the joint trajectories of patient anxiety, patient depression, caregiver anxiety and caregiver depression scores using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

RESULTS: Four joint trajectory groups were found: (1) Patient-caregiver low distress (27%), (2) patient-caregiver increasing distress (28.5%), (3) patient low- caregiver borderline distress (25%), (4) patient-caregiver high distress (19.5%). Dyads where the patient is below 50 years of age were more likely to be in Group 4. Dyads where caregiver-patient emotional closeness was low were more likely to be in Groups 2 or 4 where dyads reported increasing/high distress. Dyads that reported financial inadequacy were more likely to be in Groups 2, 3 and 4, while dyads with caregivers who were employed were more likely to be in group 3.

CONCLUSIONS: A substantial proportion of patients and caregivers reported anxiety and/or depression that lasted or increased throughout the study duration. We found significant heterogeneity in how dyads experienced psychological distress, suggesting that efforts should consider dyadic differences when providing psychological support. Particular focus should be placed on identifying dyads that are at risk and who require additional support.

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