A Canadian survey of cancer patients' experiences: are their needs being met?

J Pain Symptom Manage. 1998 Nov;16(5):298-306. doi: 10.1016/s0885-3924(98)00102-x.


Cancer patients (n = 913) who received treatment within the previous 2 years were interviewed to quantify reports of symptoms associated with cancer, measure the impact of symptoms on lifestyles, document experiences with accessing information and treatment for cancer and its symptoms, and record attitudes about the level of care received. Cancer patients were primarily recruited through newspaper ads placed throughout Canada and asked to complete a self-report questionnaire. Patients called a toll-free number and were interviewed to ensure eligibility. Most respondents were female (66%) with breast cancer (64%). Prostate cancer (40%) was the most common diagnosis among males. Almost all respondents (94%) reported experiencing one or more symptoms. Fatigue and anxiety were the most frequently reported symptoms (78% and 77%, respectively). Fatigue was most likely to be self-rated as moderate to severe and was most likely to interfere in normal daily activities. Respondents who experienced fatigue reported a more frequent use of healthcare services (including complementary therapies) than those who did not experience fatigue. Half of the respondents reported trying to find information on fatigue, but only half of these said they had obtained information. The most helpful sources of information were nurses, specialists, and other cancer patients. Respondents were more likely to be dissatisfied with their treatments for their symptoms than for their cancer. This survey indicates that most cancer patients experience symptoms related to the disease and its treatment. The most prevalent symptoms are fatigue and anxiety; fatigue is the most debilitating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Health Care