• psychosocial need;
  • cancer patients;
  • survivors;
  • disease burden



The purpose of the current study was to identify unmet psychosocial needs of cancer survivors, understand the distribution of needs across subgroups, and compare unmet needs in 2005 with those identified by Houts et al. in 1986.


Using a sequential mixed methods design, qualitative interviews were conducted with 32 cancer survivors or family members to identify the psychosocial needs of people from the time of cancer diagnosis through survivorship. These data were used to modify a needs assessment that was mailed to a stratified random sample of survivors obtained from the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry.


A total of 614 survivors returned usable questionnaires. Nearly two‒thirds of respondents reported experiencing at least 1 unmet psychosocial need, particularly emotional, physical, and treatment‒related needs. It is likely that unmet needs in insurance, employment, information, and homecare increased during the 20‒year interval between surveys. Demographics associated with increased unmet need included later stage of disease at the time of diagnosis, younger age, more comorbidities, and lower income.


Unmet psychosocial need remains high despite 20 years of effort to address psychosocial issues. This may be due to a mismatch between needs and services. Unmet need may be related to access issues, a lack of awareness of resources, “new” needs that have arisen in a changing healthcare climate, and patient preferences for types of service. Cancer treatment staff should be especially alert for psychosocial problems in younger individuals with an additional illness burden. Cancer 2007. © 2007 American Cancer Society.