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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • cancer;
  • family;
  • needs;
  • relative;
  • review

Aim.  To identify the psychosocial needs of breast-cancer patients and their relatives along with factors affecting these needs and to develop a tentative model to guide further research and need assessments in clinical practice.

Background.  Women experiencing breast cancer must deal with the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. Treatment and the recovery process can be demanding for patients and their relatives. Need assessment may help clinicians focus on providing appropriate help.

Design.  Literature review.

Method.  Undertaken using electronic databases and specific research terms; 20 articles were identified and analysed.

Results.  The needs identified by patients involve (1) treatment-related physical and social impairment like fatigue, menopausal symptoms and a changed body image and (2) emotional distress like fear of recurrence, anxiety and depression. Partners need help to protect themselves and the patient from different threats. Women need information to maintain control and manage their illness. Partners want information concerning the patient’s condition and both of them about the prognosis and perspectives. There is a lack of knowledge of relatives’ needs. Mutual familial support, women’s and partners’ health and emotional distress may affect the interaction between the patients and their partners.

Conclusions.  A tentative family-based model to guide further research and clinical support is proposed. Further research is needed to determine precisely which psychosocial factors may influence fulfilment of the patients’ and relatives’ needs.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The proposed model may provide a framework for healthcare professionals to evaluate the patients’ and relatives’ met and unmet needs and the real demand for help, to guide care planning, counselling and education.