Dr. Eleanor O’Sullivan, Cork Dental School & Hospital
Health Research Board
Cancer inflicts a formidable physical, psychological and socio-economic burden on patients, their families and health-care providers. This is particularly true for head & neck cancer which accounts for 600,000 new cases worldwide each year, and over 200,000 deaths. Research in other cancers suggests many survivors and their carers have considerable ongoing needs for medical and non-medical support over the survivorship continuum, but that these needs are not met by existing services. This study aims to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the unmet needs of carers of patients with head & neck cancer.
This study is in two parts. The first part will involve a questionnaire survey of carers. This survey will investigate what carers think of existing health and social services for carers in Ireland, and also the psychological, social and financial impact of caring. The second part will involve in-depth interviews with a subset of carers who took part in the survey. Interviews with carers will cover the nature and type of the caregiver’s social support needs and how these have evolved since the family member’s head & neck cancer diagnosis.
Our findings will be relevant for survivors, carers, support organisations, health professionals and service planners/providers. They may stimulate development of risk-assessment tools, practice guidelines, better support services, and targeted interventions for vulnerable subgroups, ultimately reducing the burden of unmet needs among head & neck cancer carers, optimising their health status and quality-of-life and maximising their contribution to society.