Top ten concerns burdening people with cancer: Perceptions of patients with cancer and the nurses caring for them

Keith S.J. Mitchell, Sarah Delfont, Maria Lucinda Bracey, Ruth Endacott

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Purpose: We examined the concerns that nurses perceive patients to have, whether these are congruent with patients' concerns and whether they vary according to cancer site. We also examined Distress Thermometer scores according to cancer site. Method: A cross-sectional survey design: (i) secondary analysis of an existing Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA) and Distress Thermometer (DT) dataset was used, (ii) a survey of specialist nurse teams to identify their perceptions of patient concerns. Data collected between January 2015 and June 2016 from the HNA database from one NHS Trust in England (n = 1233 patients). Specialist nurse teams for breast, colorectal, gynaecology, skin and urology cancers identified the concerns that they perceived their patients would report. Results: The HNA showed high internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha 0.86). Across the five cancer sites, nurses identified between 3 and 6 of the top ten concerns (TTC) expressed by patients, with wide variation across cancer sites. Nine of the TTC were significantly associated (p < 0.05) with a specific cancer site. The breast and gynaecological cancer groups both recorded significantly higher median Distress Thermometer scores than the urology, skin and colorectal cancer groups (Kruskall-Wallis χ2 (4, n = 1228) 186.695, p=<.01). Conclusions: One of the aims of the eHNA is to enable service delivery appropriate to patient needs. Our findings suggest that this will only be achieved if eHNA is examined, and services developed, by individual cancer site. The misconception of patient needs by specialist nurses underscores the importance of review of information provided by patients during consultations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-106
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Oncology Nursing
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer site
  • Oncology nursing
  • Patient needs
  • Psychological distress

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