Paper in Support Care Cancer
  • Beesley, V.L., Price, M.A., Webb, P.M., Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group and Australian Ovarian Cancer Study—Quality of Life Study Investigators (2011). Loss of lifestyle: Health behaviour and weight changes after becoming a caregiver of a family member diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Support Care Cancer, 19:1949–1956.

    Purpose: Little is known about how caring for someone affects the caregiver's health behaviours. We explore behaviour changes and their determinants in caregivers of women with ovarian cancer.

    Methods: Caregivers of 101 women with ovarian cancer completed a questionnaire 1.5–6 years after their family member's cancer diagnosis, providing information about their current health behaviours, height, weight and changes in these compared with pre-diagnosis. Information about the impact of ovarian cancer, other stressful events and distress was also collected for patients and caregivers. Logistic regression was used to determine characteristics associated with negative changes.

    Results: Half (54%) of caregivers did not meet Australian physical activity guidelines, 71% were overweight/obese, 40% ate 2 alcoholic drinks/ occasion and 10% were smokers. Overall, 56% reported ≥1 negative change since their family member’s diagnosis, with many decreasing their physical activity (42%) and/or gaining weight (35%). Caregivers were more likely to report negative changes if they had only school-level education (OR 3.0, 95%CI 1.1–8.4), they were unable to carry out usual daily activities due to caregiving (OR 2.0, 95%CI 0.7–5.4), they were clinically distressed (OR 3.4, 95%CI 1.1–10.1) or caring for a woman whose disease impacted on her usual daily activities (OR 4.3, 95%CI 1.4–13.2).

    Conclusions: Many caregivers of women with ovarian cancer do not meet Australian health guidelines and more than half describe negative changes after becoming a caregiver. More attention should be given to cancer caregivers with high physical and emotional demands.