Economic burden for informal caregivers of lung and colorectal cancer patients

Courtney Harold van Houtven, Scott D. Ramsey, Mark C. Hornbrook, Audie A. Atienza, Michelle van Ryn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Background. Informal care provides many benefits to cancer patients, but can be costly to caregivers. This study quantified the economic burden for informal caregivers of lung cancer (LC) and colorectal cancer (CRC) patients, examining differences by cancer type, phase of disease, stage at diagnosis, patient age, and relationship. Methods. A cross-sectional survey of caregivers of LC and CRC patients participating in the Share Thoughts on Care survey was conducted. Economic burden was calculated using the opportunity cost of caregiver time, the value of work hours lost, and out-of-pocket expenditures. Factors associated with economic burden to caregivers were modeled using fixed-effects generalized least squares estimation. Results. Informal caregivers (1,629) completed mailed surveys. Of these, 663, 822, and 144 were surveyed during the patient's initial phase (first year after diagnosis, not within 6 months of death), continuing phase (after 1 year, not within 6 months of death), and terminal phase (within 6 months of death) of disease, respectively. The accumulated economic burdens for caregivers were $7,028, $19,701, and $14,234 for those evaluated during the patient's initial phase, continuing phase, and terminal phase of disease, respectively. Economic burden was higher for caregivers of LC patients than CRC patients (p =.044) and for caregivers of patients diagnosed at stage 4 versus stage 1 (p =.001). Spouses faced higher economic burden than other relatives (p =.000) or friends (p =.000). Conclusions. Economic burden for informal caregivers of LC and CRC patients is substantial and should be included in estimates of the societal cost of cancer care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-893
Number of pages11
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2010


  • Cancer caregiving
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Informal care
  • Lung cancer
  • Opportunity costs
  • Out-of-pocket costs
  • Phase of disease
  • Stage of disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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