Objective: To assess the prevalence and predictors of perceived unmet needs among women diagnosed with breast cancer, with a particular focus on the impact of location (rural/urban).
Method: A random sample of women in NSW diagnosed with breast cancer was surveyed during 1995–96. The Breast Cancer Patients' Needs Questionnaire (BR-CPNQ) explores patients' perceived needs across five domains: psychological, health information, physical/daily living, patient care/support and interpersonal communication. Items assessing breast cancer specific needs and access to services and resources were included. Of 235 eligible rural women, 134 (57%) consented to participate and 129 (55%) returned completed surveys. Of 196 eligible urban women, 102 (52%) consented to participate and 100 (51%) returned completed surveys.
Results: For 12 of the 52 items, at least one-third of the sample reported ever having a moderate/high need for help. Of the 15 highest moderate or high unmet needs, 10 related to health information and three to psychological needs. There were few differences in the prevalence of needs reported by rural and urban women. Only in the physical/daily living domain were rural women more likely than urban women to report some need for help (OR=2.59, 95% Cl 1.21–5.52).
Conclusions: Unmet needs, particularly in the information and psycho-social domains, are reported by both rural and urban women with breast cancer, with sub-groups experiencing different types of needs.
Implications: There is a need to develop and trial targeted and innovative strategies to meet the health information and psychological needs of women with breast cancer, and the physical/daily living needs of rural women diagnosed with breast cancer.