• telephone counselling;
  • information;
  • psychosocial support;
  • cancer

The broad aims of the present evaluation were, firstly, to describe the information and support needs of callers to a Cancer Helpline and, secondly, to describe the response of the service to these needs. A further aim was to use these results to develop strategies to improve the service. Anonymous caller information collected over a 6-year period was analysed. The setting of the study was the Cancer Helpline service operated by the Cancer Council Victoria within the state of Victoria, Australia. The caller profile was similar to that described in the literature, with the majority of callers being women, younger than the general cancer population and enquiring most commonly about breast cancer. Patients and their relatives called to obtain information about cancer diagnosis, treatment and management and to obtain psychological and emotional support. Callers received emotional support, were supplied with verbal and written information and were referred to a variety of support services. Some population groups are underrepresented in the data. Changes to the Helpline and other services over the 6-year period are described. The pattern of callers to the Cancer Helpline appears similar to that described in the USA and Europe. Many issues and challenges are common. The paper discusses additional strategies for meeting the information and support needs of those affected by cancer and describes current and suggested research areas.