Providing care to a family member affected by head and neck cancer: a phenomenological study

Elisa Dri, Valentina Bressan, Lucia Cadorin, Simone Stevanin, Giampiera Bulfone, Antonio Rizzuto, Ghirotto Luca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Cancer is recognized as a family illness as many head and neck cancer (HNC) patients after treatment require assistance from a family caregiver throughout the rest of their life. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of primary family caregivers of HNC patients dealing with laryngectomy regarding their complex supportive role.

METHODS: Phenomenological study based on individual interviews of twelve primary caregivers of HNC patients, recruited by purposeful sampling. Interview contents were analyzed in depth, in accordance with Colaizzi's descriptive analysis framework, to explore and identify significant themes and subthemes.

RESULTS: Analysis evidenced three main topics and subthemes embracing various aspects of the caregiver's lived experiences: (1) experiencing disease and the pathway of care, (2) handling changes to everyday life, and (3) support received by others.

CONCLUSION: Given the essential role the caregiver has in the patient's post-treatment recovery, future planning of HNC patient care must consider the caregivers' needs. In order to guarantee an appropriate and effective health professional care, it is important to consider caregivers' issues and needs as part of HNC patient care planning from the diagnosis to the follow-up.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2105-2112
Number of pages8
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Caregivers/psychology
  • Family/psychology
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms/therapy
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Laryngectomy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Care/psychology


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