Caring for the person with cancer and the role of digital technology in supporting carers

  • Natalie HeynsberghEmail author
  • Mari Botti
  • Leila Heckel
  • Patricia M. Livingston
Original Article



Informal carers may experience a range of unmet needs during the caring period and, at times, lack support to adequately manage care of the person with cancer and balance personal family and work commitments. The aim of this study was to understand the needs of informal carers of people with cancer and how digital technology may be used to address carers’ needs.


Focus groups and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 45 carers. Carers discussed supports and services they used to address their needs, barriers to accessing support, and how digital technology could assist in meeting their needs.


Carers used informal support such as friends and family and formal support including respite and community groups during the caring period. Barriers to accessing support included reluctance to seek external help, sensitivities associated with prioritising carers’ needs over patients’ needs, and the adequacy of information received. Technology was reported to have the potential to allow carers’ privacy to seek support; however, carers’ attitudes towards technology differed.


Carers require support during the caring period to help balance their own needs with the needs of the person receiving cancer treatment. Digital technology may provide an opportunity to deliver support to carers; however, further research is needed to assess the appropriateness of these interventions to inform improved health outcomes for this vulnerable group.


Cancer Carer Digital technology Support Unmet needs 


Funding information

This research was supported by scholarships from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Deakin University, and Eastern Health Foundation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Health, School of Nursing and MidwiferyDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  2. 2.Epworth HealthCareMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of HealthDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia

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