Evidence Summary

What is an Evidence Summary?

Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on

Got It, Hide this
  • Rating:

Web-based support benefits caregivers of cancer patients

Kaltenbaugh, DJ, Klem, ML, Hu, L, et al. Using web-based interventions to support caregivers of patients with cancer: A systematic review Oncol Nurs Forum. 2015;42:156-164.

Review question

Does web-based support benefit caregivers of cancer patients?


In the past, support for cancer caregivers has mainly happened over the phone or in person, using many different types of therapy. These types of support have been shown to improve mental health and well-being for caregivers.  However, many caregivers cannot or do not use these support services because they can be time-consuming and expensive. New research is looking at the benefits of web-based support, which could potentially help support hard-to-reach groups such as informal caregivers.

How the review was done

The review included 6 studies of limited quality, with the number of caregivers included in each study ranging from 13 to 285. The majority of caregivers were female spouses of the patient with cancer, who had some experience using the Internet. All studies included caregiver support via the internet. One approach supplied reading materials, the others offered interactive components including tailored online modules, communication tools, training and coaching support, activities and discussion boards for caregivers. Five of the 6 studies measured the psychological benefits (eg. level of burden, mood, stress) of web support; one also measured social benefits.  Physical benefits were also measured (1 study), as well as usability (2 studies) and feasibility (1 study). 

What the researchers found

Five studies found that web-based support helped improve some aspects of psychological health for caregivers, including mood, stress, burden, coping and quality of life. One study showed that web-based support reduced the social support needed from family, friends, and health care providers.  The studies were all of limited quality, and the authors recommend more high quality research to learn more about the effects of web-based caregiver support.


Web-based support has the potential to benefit caregivers of cancer patients. More high quality research is recommended to better understand the benefits and best methods for web-based support.

Related Topics

Related Web Resources

  • Breast cancer: Risks and benefits, age 50-69

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    Your risk of dying from breast cancer is slightly reduced if you have regular screening. However, regular screening increases your chance of a false positive result, a biopsy and having part or all of a breast removed unnecessarily.
  • Breast cancer: Patient algorithm

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends women between 50 and 74 years old who are not at high risk get screened for breast cancer every 2 to 3 years. Talk to your doctor about screening options if you are at high risk or over 74 years old.
  • Breast cancer: Patient FAQ

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    This resource includes frequently asked questions about breast cancer, including: Who is considered high risk? What are the harms associated with mammography? and Why is routine screening NOT recommended for women 40-49 years?
DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

Register for free access to all Professional content