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Many Caregivers of Patients With Myeloma Struggle With Mental Health Challenges

By: Cordi Craig, MS
Posted: Thursday, August 18, 2022

Over the past 15 years, advances in available therapies for patients with multiple myeloma mean that many patients are now treated continuously for their disease. However, little is known about the quality of life and mental health of patients’ caregivers, especially since long-term therapy may have negative impacts on the burden for these individuals. A study published in Blood Advances reported that many caregivers face mental health challenges across the disease continuum, particularly anxiety.

“Myeloma treatments, like chemotherapies, not only take large physical tolls on those diagnosed with the disease, but can place a tremendous financial and emotional burden on patients and their families,” Elizabeth K. O’Donnell, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, stated in an American Society of Hematology press release.

The researchers recruited 127 caregivers for patients with multiple myeloma who received treatment from the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Network. Questionnaires were used to measure quality of life and assess symptoms of anxiety and depression. To capture the spectrum of experiences, caregiver outcomes were analyzed based on the line of therapy the patient was receiving: first-line therapy, two to three lines of therapy, and at least four lines of therapy.

Caregiver results did not appear to differ by the line of therapy. Overall, 44.1% of caregivers (n = 56) reported symptoms of clinical anxiety, 15.8% had symptoms of depression, and 24.2% had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When investigators compared mental health challenges between caregivers and patients, caregivers reported higher rates of clinically significant anxiety (44.4% vs. 22.6%), fewer depression symptoms (15.3% vs. 24.2%), and comparable rates of PTSD symptoms (24.2% vs. 25%). Of note, although many caregivers reported the patient’s oncologist informed them that the multiple myeloma was incurable, only about half acknowledged the patient’s cancer was terminal, indicating potential lapses in communication between providers and caregivers.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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