Evaluation of Factors Associated With Unmet Needs in Adult Cancer Survivors in Canada

JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Mar 2;3(3):e200506. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.0506.


Importance: Understanding the challenges faced by an increasing number of cancer survivors can guide the development and implementation of effective survivorship care models.

Objective: To identify the physical, emotional, and practical concerns and associated unmet needs reported by cancer survivors.

Design, setting, and participants: This cross-sectional survey study obtained data from the Experiences of Cancer Patients in Transitions Study of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, in collaboration with cancer agencies in the 10 Canadian provinces, that was disseminated in 2016. This analysis included only adult survivors aged 30 years or older who underwent chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgical treatment, or a combination of these therapies for breast, prostate, colorectal, melanoma, or hematological cancer within the past 1 to 3 years. Data synthesis and quality assessment were conducted in 2017. Data analysis was completed in July 2019.

Main outcomes and measures: The outcomes were the (1) quantification of the magnitude and multiplicity of the physical, emotional, and practical concerns of adult survivors of breast, colorectal, prostate, melanoma, or hematological cancer; (2) exploration of the magnitude of associated unmet needs; and (3) identification of patient-, treatment-, and cancer-specific factors associated with the reporting of unmet needs.

Results: Overall, 10 717 adult respondents were included (5660 [53%] female and 6367 [60%] aged ≥65 years). The median number of concerns per respondent was 6 (interquartile range [IQR], 3-10). Among respondents with concerns, help was sought for a median of 2 (IQR, 0-4) concerns. Unmet needs were reported for a median of 4 (IQR, 2-7) concerns. Emotional concerns were reported by 8330 respondents (78%), physical concerns by 9236 respondents (86%), and practical concerns by 4668 respondents (44%). At least 1 unmet need was reported by 7033 survivors (84%) with emotional concerns, 7475 (81%) with physical concerns, and 3459 (74%) with practical concerns. Age, sex, annual income, marital status, geographic location, language, and treatment type were significant factors associated with unmet needs. Survivors of melanoma cancer had a significantly higher likelihood of reporting unmet emotional needs (odds ratio [OR], 1.75; 95% CI, 1.17-2.61; P = .01), whereas survivors of prostate (OR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.43-0.84; P < .001) and hematological (OR, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.50-0.99; P = .04) cancers were significantly less likely to report unmet needs for physical concerns when compared with breast cancer survivors. Involvement of the general practitioner combined with the oncologist in providing care was associated with a significantly lower likelihood of reporting unmet emotional (OR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.62-1.00; P = .05) and practical (OR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.55-0.94; P = .01) needs.

Conclusions and relevance: The extent of unmet needs among cancer survivors found in this study suggests the need for enhancements in survivorship care, including better awareness of the realities of survivorship, earlier interventions for emerging concerns among survivors, and greater integration of cancer programs and primary care for more seamless transitions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires