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Gynecologic cancer patients' psychosocial needs and their views on the physician's role in meeting those needs


Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Brigitte E. Miller, MD, Section on Gynecologic Oncology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157. Email:


The aim of this study was to identify the psychosocial needs of patients after treatment for gynecological malignancies and their views concerning the role physicians should take in meeting those needs. Self-administered questionnaires were answered by 95 patients at least 6 months after completion of therapy. Topic areas included emotional needs, spiritual concerns, patient-family communication, patient participation in decision making, and advance directives. In addition, all participants completed the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT-G, version 4) quality of life questionnaire. Fifty-seven percent of respondents stated that they had needed help dealing with emotional problems, and 73% wanted the physician to ask whether help is needed. The most common emotional concerns were feeling nervous (40% of subjects), being worried (34%), fear (25%), needing someone to talk to (24%), sadness (21%), and loss of control (17%). Fifty-nine percent stated that physicians should ask whether help is needed in discussing spiritual matters. Sixty-one percent stated that physicians should ask patients whether they want help starting conversations with their families about difficult-to-raise topics such as the possibility of dying. Forty-six of 86 respondents (53%) stated that discussions about advance directives such as living wills should take place soon after the cancer diagnosis has been established. Most patients surveyed want physicians to take an active role in dealing with psychosocial needs.