Sweden’s cancer care neglects family’s needs

Close relatives and family of cancer patients in Sweden rarely get the help they need to cope with the effects of treating the disease, a new survey has found.

Sweden's cancer care neglects family's needs

"The things we ignore here and now end up costing resources, money, and suffering in the future," psychologist Patrik Göransson, chair of Swedpos, the Swedish Association for psychosocial oncology and rehabilitation, told the TT news agency.

Support from family members is an important element in cancer care, as cancer patients are often treated on an outpatient basis and can remain ill for years.

"That means it's important that close relatives are on hand to help with practical matters and to also provide emotional support," cancer nurse and researcher Katarina Sjövall told TT.

But a survey carried out by the Network Against Cancer (Nätverket mot cancer), found that 73 percent of relatives of cancer patients weren't offered any psychological counseling. A majority of the 786 respondents indicated they wished they had received such support.

"I had hoped the results would be better, but unfortunately, I'm not surprised," said Sjövall, whose previous research has revealed that cancer patients' partners often end up on sick leave themelves.

In addition to suffering from depression and other mental health issues, relatives of cancer sufferers also have a higher risk for developing cardiovascular diseases.

Göransson pointed out that family members of cancer patients are often hit hard by the effects of watching a loved one suffer from the disease.

"Quite often, the relatives actually feel worse than the patient during the actual cancer treatment. The patients receive quite a lot of support, attention, and information," he said.

He believes that Sweden's health care system would be well-served by offering more support to the family members of cancer patients.

"Involving relatives – I think that's a key to family members' well-being," said Göransson.

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