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The impact of coping strategies of cancer caregivers on psychophysiological outcomes: an integrative review

Authors Teixeira RJ, Applebaum AJ, Bhatia S, Brandão T

Received 8 February 2018

Accepted for publication 6 April 2018

Published 24 May 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 207—215


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman

Ricardo João Teixeira,1–4 Allison J Applebaum,5 Sangeeta Bhatia,6 Tânia Brandão7

1Department of Education and Psychology, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal; 2Clínica daOrdem, Porto, Portugal; 3CESPU, Institute of Research and Advanced Training in Health Sciences and Technologies, Gandra, Portugal; 4MamaHelp, Breast Cancer Support Center, Porto, Portugal; 5Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA; 6Department of Psychology, Gargi College, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India; 7Departamento de Psicologia, Centro de Investigação em Psicologia (CIP-UAL), Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa Luís de Camões, Lisboa, Portugal

Purpose: A growing number of studies have explored the psychosocial burden experienced by cancer caregivers, but less attention has been given to the psychophysiological impact of caregiving and the impact of caregivers’ coping strategies on this association. This paper reviews existing research on the processes underlying distress experienced by cancer caregivers, with a specific focus on the role of coping strategies on psychophysiological correlates of burden.
Methods: A broad literature search was conducted in health-related databases namely ­MEDLINE, Science Citations Index Expanded, Scopus, and PsycINFO, using relevant search terms. All types of studies published in English were considered for inclusion.
Results: We found that cancer caregiving was related to increased blood pressure, dysregulation of autonomic nervous system, hypothalamic–pituitary–axis dysregulation, immune changes, and poor health-related behaviors. We also found that problem-focused coping was associated with decreased caregiver burden, decreased depression, and better adjustment, while emotion-focused coping was related to higher levels of posttraumatic growth and psychological distress. The way coping impacts psychophysiological correlates of burden, however, remains unexplored.
Conclusion: A better understanding of the psychophysiological elements of caregiver burden is needed. We propose a model that attends specifically to factors that may impact psychophysiological correlates of burden among cancer caregivers. Based on the proposed model, psychosocial interventions that specifically target caregivers’ coping and emotion regulation skills, family functioning, and self-care are endemic to the preservation of the health and well-being of this vulnerable population.

Keywords: cancer, caregiver, burden, coping, psychophysiology

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