Socio-demographic, psychosocial and attitudinal predictors of help seeking after cancer diagnosis



Objective: The objective is to describe cancer patients' patterns of use of psychosocial support services and identify socio-demographic, psychosocial, and attitudinal predictors of service utilization.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 439 cancer patients (61.2% response) at a regional tertiary cancer center assessed patterns of support service utilization, cancer-specific distress, social support and constraints, and attitudes to help seeking.

Results: Patients less frequently received advice about psychosocial support in comparison with treatment-related information. More than half the respondents were aware of social work support, support groups, and chaplain support; however, most did not utilize these services. For unaware patients, up to 47% would have utilized support services if they had known of their existence. The use of services was significantly related to being female, younger, and having greater cancer-specific distress, more positive and less negative attitudes to help seeking. Future intention to contact a health professional for psychological support was predicted by more positive subjective norms and outcome expectations, higher cancer-specific distress, and less negative attitudes to help seeking.

Conclusion: Initiatives that encourage distressed patients to use psychosocial care services should highlight positive outcomes. Educational programs for health professionals to support psychosocial care in oncology are needed. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.