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Keywords:

  • supportive cancer care;
  • health services needs and demands;
  • neoplasms/psychology;
  • social support;
  • activities of daily living

Abstract

BACKGROUND

The objective of this study was to examine the physical and emotional health status, self-perceived problems, and needs of newly diagnosed cancer patients to determine and plan supportive care strategies.

METHODS

A cross-sectional survey of newly diagnosed cancer patients attending a regional cancer center during a 6-month period was performed. Patients with breast, colorectal, head and neck, lung, and prostate carcinoma as well as nonmelanoma of the skin were selected randomly. Patients were interviewed prior to their first appointment at the clinic. Physical health status was assessed using the Symptom Distress Scale, psychologic health status was assessed with the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), day-to-day functioning with the Rapid Disability Scale, and social support with the modified Sarason's Social Support Scale. Perceived needs were assessed in a number of ways, including identification of patients' specific social concerns and informational needs, and by asking them to list their current problems or concerns.

RESULTS

Of 156 eligible patients, 134 completed the interview. One hundred and twenty-nine patients (96%) reported current symptoms that included fatigue (66%), worried outlook (61%), difficulty sleeping (48%), and pain (42%). Forty-four patients (33%) were identified as psychologically distressed with a GHQ score of ≥ 6. One hundred and fourteen patients (85%) had informational needs, 89 (66%) indicated ≥ 1 social concerns, and 55 (41%) reported a need for assistance with day-to-day living.

CONCLUSIONS

Patients with newly diagnosed cancer commonly report symptoms related to fatigue, pain, and psychologic distress. Other frequently reported issues relate to the need for information and social concerns regarding the patients' ability to take care of their home and maintain family and other relationships. Awareness of these issues is important for planning supportive care interventions for newly diagnosed cancer patients. Cancer 1997; 80:1518-24. © 1997 American Cancer Society.