Marie Curie Cancer Care has warned those who find themselves looking after a relative often go unidentified and unsupported by the NHS, following the release of a new report.
The charity commissioned researchers at Edinburgh University to investigate the experiences of carers and the findings were issued today.
Focus groups with carers and professionals in the East of Scotland were held as part of the study and the authors conducted a review of relevant literature including books and research papers.
Professor Scott Murray, of Edinburgh University Primary Palliative Care Research Group, said: "Carers often prefer to think of themselves as a wife or a son rather than a 'carer', and so fail to ask for help until they are struggling to cope. We must encourage people to seek help to look after their relatives, and GPs and nurses should be alert to asking their patients if they have any relative with a serious illness."
Around 10% of the Scottish population are regarded as unpaid carers with many providing end of life care. Marie Curie say the challenges of managing their caring role alongside family, friends and work commitments means that they often find it difficult to manage their own needs and can lose their own sense of identity.
Richard Meade, head of policy and public affairs for Marie Curie in Scotland, said: "It's worrying that carers are missing out on much needed support, especially at a time when they need it most."
The study, funded by the Dimbleby Marie Curie Cancer Care Research Fund, has been published ahead of the conclusion of the Scottish Government's consultation on proposed legislation supporting carers and young carers.