Prevalence, intensity, and predictors of the supportive care needs of women diagnosed with breast cancer: a systematic review

Psychooncology. 2014 Apr;23(4):361-74. doi: 10.1002/pon.3432. Epub 2013 Oct 28.


Objective: The assessment of supportive care needs is a crucial step in the development of appropriate interventions that may improve the quality of life of cancer patients. This review describes and analyzes the prevalence and predictors of the unmet supportive care needs of breast cancer (BC) patients and survivors and suggests paths for further research.

Method: Multiple databases were searched, considering only quantitative studies using validated needs assessment instruments and focusing uniquely on women diagnosed with BC.

Results: Out of 761 hits, 23 studies answered to all eligibility criteria. Nineteen were cross-sectional, and the remaining four were longitudinal. Most included patients at different moments along the BC trajectory, from diagnosis to decades into survivorship, with the major proportion of patients under treatment. Only five concentrated on the posttreatment phase into extended survivorship. The concerns of women diagnosed with BC clustered around psychological and information needs, with the top concern being 'fear of the cancer returning'. Predictors of higher levels of needs included advanced disease stage, greater symptom burden, shorter time since diagnosis, higher levels of distress, and younger age. Prevalence differed between cultures with Asian women reporting greater information needs and lower psychological needs compared with Western women.

Conclusions: Revealing which needs BC patients consider most urgent and the factors related to greater needs will permit the development of improved and targeted supportive care. Future research should comprise longitudinal designs concentrating on women at specific moments along the BC trajectory for a dynamic understanding of these needs.

Keywords: breast cancer; cancer; needs assessment; oncology; supportive care; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marital Status
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Survivors / psychology*