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Arch Hellen Med, 31(4), July-August 2014, 412-422


Supportive care needs of advanced cancer patients. The nursing perspective

T.I. Konstantinidis,1 A. Philalithis2
1Faculty of Nursing, Technological Educational Institute of Crete, Heraklion,
2Health Planning Division, Faculty of Medicine, University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece

Patients with advanced cancer and those who are terminally ill develop multiple health problems as a consequence of the disease and its treatment. They also manifest a variety of psychological, socio-economic and other needs, which have adverse effects on their daily functioning and quality of life and on the outcome of the disease. The incidence and extent of these needs varies; they may include the management of common physical symptoms such as pain and fatigue, psychological issues such as anxiety and depression, and coping with everyday activities such as managing the costs and accessing the health care system. Needs, health problems and symptoms are subjective and vary in intensity and duration in different patients and over the course of the disease. Health professionals and patients do not share the same understanding of these problems and do not prioritize their significance in a common way. Commonly, those issues that cause the most discomfort or are perceived to be the most threatening for the patients with advanced cancer are evaluated as unimportant by the health care professionals, which may cause confusion in the setting of care priorities. In this context, health needs assessment for patients with advanced cancer is of great value. The purpose of health needs assessment is the collection of specific information and evidence for the accurate determination of whether additional care and support is required to cover the unmet needs of patients and to establish more personalized care plans. This is a review of the issues related to health needs assessment in advanced cancer patients, exploring the extent to which the health needs priorities of patients and health professionals are based on common ground. In addition, it documents the characteristics of those cancer patients who experience increased health needs, and the degree to which their carers and significant others are affected. It is argued that the health needs assessment of patients with cancer is invaluable in everyday clinical practice. The most commonly used qualitative and quantitative health needs assessment tools are presented and submitted to critical analysis.

Key words: Advanced cancer patients, Health needs, Needs assessment tools, Supportive care.

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