Aims. This paper presents a review of the informational and emotional needs of long-term breast cancer survivors, with particular attention to the different needs of women according to their age and to critiquing healthcare provision to these women.
Background. Women with a history of breast cancer are the largest group of cancer survivors. While they may be disease-free, their cancer diagnosis has ongoing physical and psychosocial implications for their lives and well-being.
Methods. A literature search for the period 1985 to March 2004 was undertaken using the CINAHL, MEDLINE, CANCERLIT, PubMed and CUIDEN databases and the keywords long-term, breast cancer survivors, needs and social support. Hand-searching was also done, and reference lists of papers were examined for relevant studies.
Results. Survivors of breast cancer continue to experience informational and emotional needs during their long-term survivorship, and variation in the amount and type of support required is age-related. However, women's needs are often unmet by oncology teams and they have to find other sources of support, such as self-help groups. Thus, ongoing care is required after completion of medical treatment, and nurses have a significant contribution to make here.
Conclusions. Nursing research on long-term breast cancer survivorship is limited. Future studies need to investigate the unmet needs of long-term survivors of breast cancer and, specifically, explore the kind of support women would like to receive from oncology teams, and particularly from breast cancer nurses.