• cancer;
  • interventions;
  • teaching methods;
  • information needs;
  • community health;
  • home care;
  • oncology;
  • patient education

Purpose: To describe information needs of elderly postsurgical cancer patients. Few reports have described learning needs of postsurgical cancer patients during the initial weeks after hospitalization. Responding to information needs during the transition to home is important for helping patients and families to appropriately manage illness.

Design: Descriptive, using records kept for patients assigned to the experimental group in a larger study completed in 1996. The sample was 148 American patients surgically treated for a new diagnosis of prostate, breast, gastrointestinal, lung, or head and neck cancer. Information needs were identified from topics addressed by advanced practice nurses during 4-week episodes of home care.

Methods: Content analysis of 3,280 statements of teaching interventions.

Findings: Teaching themes were instructing on postoperative self-care, advising on symptom management, clarifying the illness experience, discussing psychological responses, and preparing patients and families to coordinate follow-up care. Topics included describing the expected course of illness, informing about community resources, identifying events that require physician notification, and advising on pain management. Topic emphasis varied by site of cancer.

Conclusions: Information needs of elderly postsurgical cancer patients during transition from hospital to home are extensive. Teaching interventions ranged from giving concrete instructions about care of a surgical wound to interpreting complex information about options for cancer treatment. Elderly postsurgical cancer patients need informational support during the transition from hospital to home.