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Abstract

We examined information from community-based and philanthropic organizations to document the cancer-related services that are currently available, establish which services are still needed, and determine who utilizes these formal support networks. In Phase I, 32 of 41 eligible organizations participated in a survey conducted from December 1999 to March 2000. The most common mission focus among participating organizations was information/referral-centered. The most common services provided were referrals to information resources and provision of cancer-related information. Only two of the organizations in Phase I provided client demographic information and both indicated that client populations were predominantly white, female, and over age 40. Phase II of the study involved analyzing patient data from Cancer Care, Inc., a national service organization for cancer patients. Between 1983 and 1997, there were 2,714 prostate cancer patients and 9,451 breast cancer patients included in the Cancer Care database. Their most commonly reported problems were related to personal adjustment to illness, financial, home care, and transportation needs. There were significant differences in problems reported depending upon age and disease status.

In addition, the results of this study support the idea that those at highest risk for developing and dying of cancer are the least likely to utilize formal support networks. Further, a gap in service provision for assistance with practical needs (e.g., transportation, home care, child care, psychosocial support) was identified. Due to the increasing use of outpatient care for cancer patients, a greater demand for practical assistance can be expected in the future. The availability of practical services will need to be increased in order to effectively meet cancer patient needs.