Skip Navigation
National Cancer Institute

Cancer Survivorship and Adult Daughter Caregivers

Victoria H. Raveis, Ph.D.
Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
New York, NY

  • A shift to more outpatient cancer treatment and care, less severe therapies, and continuing treatment in the home instead of the hospital means that cancer patients undergoing treatment remain in the community and often are cared for by family members. Given that most cancers are diagnosed in older adults, the infirmities and comorbidities of age will complicate treatment and increase the scope and duration of caregivers' duties. Additionally, not all patients will recover completely after cancer treatment and may continue to require care from family members.
  • Adult children, usually daughters or daughters-in-law, are the primary source of support and assistance to older adults with cancer. These women are likely to have multiple demands—families of their own, children, job duties—and the anxiety they may feel over a parent's cancer is exacerbated by the burden and strain of providing care in addition to their usual responsibilities. There is limited research on the cancer experience and psychosocial impact of caregiving by adult daughters.
  • A study of daughters providing care for mothers who had completed treatment for breast cancer found that the amount of assistance provided for daily living activities did not decline significantly over time (6 and 12 months after completion of treatment), but the number of activity domains (administration, transportation, instrumental) for which care was provided did decrease. The time daughters spent visiting remained the same over time, although the number of days per week daughters visited decreased.
  • Caregiving placed burdens on daughters' social lives, time, work, and physical and financial well-being, but it also was personally fulfilling; some daughters felt they had an opportunity to forge a closer bond with their parents and found caregiving to be an opportunity for reciprocity and growth. Caregivers reported challenges concerning alterations in interactions with their parents, adapting to fears of recurrence and disease progression, and changes in their attitudes toward life-cycle developmental issues related to aging and mortality; for example, the caregiving experience exposed them to an illness that they themselves may face in the future.

View Presentation (PDF)