Differences in information seeking among breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer patients: results from a population-based survey

Patient Educ Couns. 2010 Dec:81 Suppl:S54-62. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.09.010. Epub 2010 Oct 8.


Objective: There is much research describing cancer patients' information needs and their use of the Internet, print media, and other sources to fulfill these needs. Yet little is known about whether patients with different types of cancer vary in their information needs and seeking behaviors. This study used population-based data to address this question.

Methods: A sample was randomly drawn from the list of patients with breast, prostate, or colorectal cancer reported to the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry in 2005. Patients completed a mail survey (N=2010); respective response rates were 68%, 64%, and 61%.

Results: Colorectal cancer patients reported consistently less information seeking than breast and prostate cancer patients. Multivariate analyses revealed that differences by cancer type were not explained by sex or other demographics, disease stage, or treatment received. These differences were most pronounced among patients with early stage cancer.

Conclusion: Cancer patients have myriad information needs and use a range of sources to satisfy these needs, but there appear to be important differences in information engagement by cancer type.

Practice implications: Understanding differences in information seeking among disease-specific populations may help guide future patient education and decision making across the care continuum.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Colorectal cancer; Information needs; Information seeking; Prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Information Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Patient Participation
  • Pennsylvania
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Registries
  • Socioeconomic Factors