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Understanding the Social and Family Impact of Cancer Care in a Community Setting

August 9, 2023

Cancer is not just something that affects an individual. Cancer’s effects on family members and other loved ones tend to be significant, as numerous people adjust to what is occurring and a future that is likely much different from the one anticipated. The social system that someone with cancer and their loved ones are in also influences how they respond to this situation and in what ways the emotional effects of cancer will affect them. In addition, those individuals influence the community setting in which cancer care is taking place.


Having a Family Member With Cancer


Cancer’s effects on family members are often shown in numerous ways.


A partner of someone with cancer will often need to take on more of the already existing responsibilities in addition to helping care for their loved one during this challenging time. An adult child may suddenly and unexpectedly be thrust into a caretaker role in relation to a parent, often reversing their relationship with each other. Young children will experience a change in their home life that they had not anticipated and often struggle in ways that may not be readily apparent to others.


The family member with cancer and relatives and close friends must adjust to these changing physical and emotional needs as best as possible. Understand that energy levels may fluctuate more than expected and that everyone is susceptible to feeling a tremendous amount of anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, hopefulness, and determination.


Also, remember that there may be conflict regarding how to show physical and emotional support best. This can present itself in individuals disagreeing with each other on what is best for the one with cancer as well as a loved one and the person with cancer struggling to come to an agreement as far as what can be done to help them in a manner that is comfortable and desired for both.


Cancer and Relationships


Cancer and relationships can be a particularly challenging combination.


One notable example is that someone suffering from cancer and their partner had likely started making extensive plans for their future, both short- and long-term, which are now significantly changed. This can result in not just sadness but also anger at the situation. It is important to talk these things through with patience and understanding as a new vision of the future comes into focus. It may help to emphasize delaying some goals rather than changing them.


Cancer and Emotions: Gender Differences


It should also be noted that, generally, women are more distressed by the cancer experience than men, especially regarding emotions such as depression and anxiety. This tends to be true regardless of who has cancer and who is in more of a caregiver role.


Community Effects on the Cancer Experience


The community that someone with cancer is in can profoundly affect the cancer experience.


This is particularly impactful in a negative way for those of lower socioeconomic status. A few of the ways this is generally shown are in increased levels of high-risk behaviors, receiving a delayed initial diagnosis, not experiencing as high-quality treatment as others, and suffering from a lower survival rate.


However, having a social network is helpful for those with cancer and people supporting them, both likely experiencing tremendous pressure. Those in the community setting can help these individuals in concrete ways, such as doing shopping or cleaning for someone overwhelmed and providing moral support by talking things through and listening to them speak about their experiences.


Community healthcare providers can help bridge any existing gaps, whether due to an individual’s socioeconomic status or other factors, partially by providing care that would not have otherwise occurred and partially by offering different perspectives than would have otherwise been received by those people.


With that said, those in a community setting need to adjust to a family and the more intimate support system surrounding someone with cancer, taking into account their culture, familial and otherwise when providing that assistance.


Resources for Family and Community Members Affected by Cancer


Numerous resources exist that have the potential to offer a tremendous amount of help to families and community members who have been affected by cancer. These include detailed information on various types of cancer and treatment options that are available for them, financial assistance programs, legal assistance programs, and emotional support services.