Information needs and prostate cancer: the development of a systematic means of identification


Jeremy Dale, Centre for Primary Health Care Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK.



To design, from first principles, a valid and reliable scale for assessing the importance of specific items of information needed by patients with prostate cancer that would be straightforward to use in clinical settings, as despite its prevalence, there is little research focusing specifically on the information needs associated with prostate cancer.


Several stages of consultation and modification were used to inform the development of a scale which was then piloted on 96 patients with prostate cancer. Respondents were asked to rate the importance they placed on a range of prostate cancer-related topics of information, and the extent to which they felt these information needs had been met. The construct and content validity of the instrument were established and an exploratory factor analysis used to guide restructuring of the tool. Internal consistency/reliability was calculated using Cronbach's α.


Using the scale showed that men with prostate cancer placed considerable importance on a broad range of information needs, most of which had been inadequately met. Age had a significant influence on the overall importance attributed to information, with younger patients having more need for information. The construct and content validity of the instrument were established. The factor analysis revealed four discrete factors which together explained > 68% of the variance, termed ‘basics of prostate cancer care’, ‘disease management’, ‘physical well-being’ and ‘self-help’. Internal consistency/reliability was satisfactory (α = 0.91).


The basis of a tool capable of ascertaining the information needs of patients with prostate cancer was developed; it may offer clinicians a valid means of ascertaining information preferences and hence potentially enhance the quality of service provided. Further research is now required to refine the tool and test the effect of its longitudinal use in clinical practice on patient satisfaction and outcome.