Cancer Survivors Have Unmet Emotional Needs

Posted On December 6, 2016
Categories Featured Stories

In Georgia, there are currently close to 410,740 cancer survivors. New research shows that many of these survivors have unmet emotional needs related to cancer survivorship and few of these patients receive survivorship resources to address these needs. However, patients that do access these resources overwhelmingly find them helpful. Further outreach is needed to address unresolved distress tied to cancer survivorship and to better understand issues around access to evidence-based survivorship resources, particularly among survivors with limited English proficiency, lacking access to technology, and in minority populations.


Survey Findings
These findings emerged as part of a statewide needs assessment conducted by the Georgia Cancer Control Consortium’s (GC3’s) Survivorship Working Group, which is facilitated by the Georgia Health Policy Center, to understand the physical, psychosocial, practical and spiritual needs of adult cancer survivors to better understand unmet needs. GC3 leads the state’s Cancer Control Plan. One of the eight priorities of the plan focuses on survivorship.

As part of the needs assessment the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education facilitated a survey of Georgia cancer survivors. Online and paper-based surveys were distributed through survivorship programs of 40 Georgia hospitals accredited by the Commission on Cancer and community-based organizations serving cancer survivors.

In total, 740 responses were received from September to December 2014. The majority of respondents were female (78 percent), white (83 percent), college-educated (55 percent), insured (97 percent), and within five years post treatment (81 percent).

A high proportion of survivors reported moderate to extreme levels of emotional distress with: depression (32.7 percent), anxiety (32.1 percent) and stress (30.2 percent). More than half of survivors reported receiving little or no assistance from health care providers for these needs. Just over one-third of survivors received a survivorship care plan, although nearly all who received it (98 percent) reported it was helpful.

“Our results demonstrate the unique needs of cancer survivors in the state and the need for providers to understand and be responsive to survivors’ unmet needs and levels of distress,” says Angela Patterson, vice president of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education, and GC3 Survivorship Working Group chair. “Providers need to understand these deficits to inform practice and guide survivors towards evidence–based approaches and services.”


Next Steps
Criss Hopson, a senior research associate at the Georgia Health Policy Center, acknowledges that racial and ethnic minority groups and people from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds were underrepresented in survey responses. To address this shortcoming, a second phase of survey planning is ongoing among vulnerable populations in the state, including residents that have limited English proficiency or are low-income, reside in rural areas, are undocumented immigrants, or from minority groups that experience health disparities in cancer prevalence and mortality rates.

The poster “Assessing Needs among Cancer Survivors in Georgia” was presented at the American Public Health Association annual meeting Oct. 29-Nov. 2 in Denver, CO. Co-authors include Angela Patterson, from the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education; Cam Escoffery, from Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University;  Mohammad Khalaf, formerly from GHPC; Joan Giblin, from Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University; Karuna Ramachandran, from the Center for Pan Asian Community Services; and Rachel Cannady, from the American Cancer Society.