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Keywords:

  • lung cancer;
  • oncology;
  • mental health service use;
  • barriers;
  • psychological;
  • distress

Abstract

Objective

This study examined barriers to mental health service use and preferences for addressing emotional concerns among lung cancer patients (N = 165) at two medical centers in the Midwestern United States.

Methods

Lung cancer patients completed an assessment of anxiety and depressive symptoms, mental health service use, barriers to using these services, and preferences for addressing emotional concerns.

Results

Only 45% of distressed patients received mental health care since their lung cancer diagnosis. The most prevalent patient-reported barriers to mental health service use among non-users of these services (n = 110) included the desire to independently manage emotional concerns (58%) and inadequate knowledge of services (19%). In addition, 57% of distressed patients who did not access mental health services did not perceive the need for help. Seventy-five percent of respondents (123/164) preferred to talk to a primary care physician if they were to have an emotional concern. Preferences for counseling, psychiatric medication, peer support, spiritual care, or independently managing emotional concerns also were endorsed by many patients (range = 40–50%). Older age was associated with a lower likelihood of preferring to see a counselor.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that many distressed lung cancer patients underuse mental health services and do not perceive the need for such services. Efforts to increase appropriate use of services should address patients' desire for autonomy and lack of awareness of services. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.