Acknowledging cancer as a family disease: A systematic review of family care in the cancer setting

E. Coyne*, Natalie Heynsbergh, K. B. Dieperink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: Family members are a part of the team to improve the outcomes of the person with cancer. Families require support and information to optimise their care, however, their needs are often unacknowledged and within clinical areas there is a lack of family focused interventions. Studies highlight families’ needs but lack a family representation. The aim was to explore research with family as the unit-of-care during cancer treatment. Method: The Pickering systematic quantitative literature review method; a 15-step process from searching, database development and analysis was followed. Research published 2008–2019 within databases: MEDLINE, SCOPUS, PsycINFO, Cochrane, CINAHL; key words, ‘family* or caregiver*, and cancer*, neoplasm* and coping*, distress* in November 2019. Quality assessment completed using Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool, descriptive quantitative analysis and thematic analysis. Results: Studies involving patients and family members were included in the review (N = 73). The analysis identified participants had a mean age of 58 years and primarily lung, breast or prostate cancer. Over 80% were from America and European countries; 93% had a dyad sample, quantitative studies (76%). There was eight intervention studies between four to sixteen weeks long, focused on family wellbeing. Themes described the impact of cancer on the whole family, the importance of communication between family members, and resources for family members. Conclusion: The review identified four main scales and optimum intervention styles. Family research in the adult cancer needs to focus on intervention studies, increase international focus and inclusion of other family members such as children, friends and older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101841
JournalEuropean Journal of Oncology Nursing
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Cancer
  • Family
  • Family nursing
  • Interventions
  • Literature review
  • Nursing

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