Factors associated with psychosocial needs of close relatives of women under treatment for breast cancer

Silvia Schmid-Buchi, Bart van den Borne, Theo Dassen, Ruud J. G. Halfens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aims. (1) To gain insight into the psychosocial needs and distress of close relatives of women under treatment for breast cancer and identify how they perceive the interpersonal relationship with the patient and (2) to determine factors associated with the relatives' psychosocial needs. Background. Breast cancer affects patients but also close relatives. Relatives need support themselves but there is still a lack of knowledge about their specific needs. Design. Relatives of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer participated in a cross-sectional survey. Method. Relatives were approached by patients, who were contacted by nurses in two Swiss breast cancer clinics. The patients received the questionnaire for their closest relative, who decided independently of the patient about participation. Standardised questionnaires were completed by 107 relatives. Results. The relatives needed help with access to information and health care professionals. They needed information about the patients' treatment (50 center dot 9%), honest information (41 center dot 6%) and had difficulties with confidence in health care professionals (39 center dot 2%). The majority (61 center dot 0%) suffered from distress, less (26 center dot 1%) from anxiety and depression (10 center dot 9%). Distress, anxiety and conflict in their interpersonal relationship were associated with the relatives' unmet psychosocial needs. Conclusions. The findings increase the knowledge of the psychosocial needs of relatives of patients with breast cancer and provide the basis for purposeful support. Distress, anxiety and conflicts in the relationship are important factors that may identify more vulnerable relatives with unmet needs or a higher demand for support. Relevance to clinical practice. Assessment of the relatives' specific needs, distress and anxiety is important, and the relatives' perception of their relationship should be addressed. Health care professionals are key persons in contact with relatives and should motivate the patients to involve their relatives in the illness and treatment process. Support programmes for relatives of patients with breast cancer should be developed in Swiss cancer clinics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1115-1124
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • breast cancer
  • needs
  • nurses
  • nursing
  • psychosocial
  • relatives


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