Cancer patient and caregiver communication about economic concerns and the effect on patient and caregiver partners’ perceptions of family functioning

Maria D. Thomson, Maureen Wilson-Genderson, Laura A. Siminoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: Financial strain and stressful life events can constrain open communication within families. A cancer diagnosis can bring heightened emotional stress and financial strain for most cancer patients and their families. We evaluated how level of comfort and willingness to discuss important but sensitive economic topics affected longitudinal assessments of family relationships, exploring both within-person and between partner effects over 2 years after a cancer diagnosis. Methods: A case series of hematological cancer patient-caregiver dyads (n = 171) were recruited from oncology clinics in Virginia and Pennsylvania and followed for 2 years. Multi-level models were developed to examine the associations between comfort discussing economic aspects of cancer care and family functioning. Results: Broadly, caregivers and patients who were comfortable discussing economic topics reported higher family cohesion and lower family conflict. Dyads’ assessments of family functioning were influenced both by their own and their partners level of communication comfort. Overtime, caregiver but not patients perceived a significant decrease in family cohesion. Conclusions: Efforts to address financial toxicity in cancer care should include examination of how patients and families communicate as unaddressed difficulties can have detrimental effects on family functioning in the long term. Future studies should also examine whether the prominence of specific economic topics, such as employment status, varies depending on where the patient is in their cancer journey. Implications for Cancer Survivors. In this sample, cancer patients did not perceive the decline in family cohesion that was reported by their family caregiver. This is an important finding for future work that aims to identify the timing and nature to best intervene with caregiver supports to mitigate caregiver burden that may negatively impact long-term patient care and QoL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-949
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2024


  • Cancer caregivers
  • Cohesion
  • Conflict
  • Cross-partner effects
  • Employment
  • Insurance
  • Treatment costs
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Family/psychology
  • Cost of Illness
  • Male
  • Caregivers/psychology
  • Neoplasms/psychology
  • Family Relations/psychology
  • Quality of Life
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Perception
  • Aged
  • Cancer Survivors/psychology
  • Communication


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