Background: The number of cancer survivors is increasing dramatically. Many survivors report long-term psychosocial, physical and other consequences. To understand the issues faced by Australian cancer survivors we conducted focus groups with cancer patients and health professionals.
Methods: Patients were identified through a peer support program at a major cancer treatment center (Peter Mac). Health professionals were also recruited from Peter Mac. Focus groups followed a semi-structured format based on themes identified from the literature. Questions focused on treatment completion, and 1 year post-treatment. Participants were also asked to suggest solutions to address identified issues. Focus groups were taped, transcribed, cross-checked for accuracy, and analyzed independently.
Results: The most common needs (in terms of both frequency and intensity) reported at treatment completion by both survivors and professionals were dealing with fatigue, anxiety about cancer recurrence, others expecting you to be back to normal, having to create new expectations about physical ability, and anxiety about leaving the hospital system. The most common needs at 1 year were anxiety about check-ups and results, and going into early menopause. The most frequently suggested ways of meeting these perceived needs were reassuring survivors the way they feel is normal and putting them in contact with others who have been through the same experience.
Discussion: There was a high level of congruence in the themes identified by survivors and health professionals.
Implications for cancer survivors: These results provide a clear direction for the development of resources to support cancer survivors following treatment completion.