Background: Husbands, as the primary providers of support for women with breast cancer, can experience significant burden and role strain, but also perceive positive aspects to the caregiving. Little is known about the specific caregiving tasks husbands perform, for how long, or how burden and positive aspects relate to later psychological distress.
Objective: Our primary aim was to better characterize the caregiving responsibilities and role strains of husbands during active cancer treatment and 1 year later. We also evaluated positive aspects during active treatment. Our second aim was to determine which of these predicted psychological distress 1 year later.
Methods: Husbands of women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer completed a battery of surveys during the time of wives' treatment and again 1 year later.
Results: Husbands performed a variety of caregiving tasks for wives during and after breast cancer treatment and also reported benefits associated with caregiving. Breast cancer-related worries were high at both time points. At 1 year after treatment, role strains improved in the social domain but worsened in the domestic domain. Domestic strains during active treatment were the strongest predictor of 1-year distress.
Conclusions: Husbands who report persistent domestic role strain are at high risk for continued psychological distress following their wives' breast cancer treatment.
Implications for Practice: Health care providers should monitor husbands' caregiver burden regularly. Providing couples with resources to reduce domestic role strain (such as social support and communication training) may prevent or alleviate psychological distress in these husbands.