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Clinical Oncology/Epidemiology

Emotional support for cancer patients: what do patients really want?


For many cancer patients and their families the experience of cancer is an intensely stressful one. Emotional support is important for most cancer patients during their illness and can be gained from different people and services. This study evaluates patients' attitudes to different sources of support and rates their satisfaction with sources already used. A total of 431 patients completed a questionnaire covering the use of different sources, including individuals, support groups and information sources. The questionnaire also incorporated validated measurements of anxiety, depression and locus of control. The results revealed that the three most important sources of emotional support were senior registrars (73%) and family (73%), followed by consultants (63%). Patients would prefer doctor- and nurse-led support groups to patient only-led groups (26% vs 12%). Pamphlets, such as the BACUP booklets, proved the most important of the informational sources sought (50%). A total of 86% of patients were satisfied or very satisfied with the emotional support received. Patients who expressed dissatisfaction with their emotional support were significantly more likely to be anxious and depressed (P < 0.001). Patients who used information sources were more likely to have a higher locus of control over the course of their disease. These results show how important the doctor's role is in the provision of emotional support.

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Slevin, M., Nichols, S., Downer, S. et al. Emotional support for cancer patients: what do patients really want?. Br J Cancer 74, 1275–1279 (1996).

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