Cancer patients seek reassurance through nurse helplines

Cancer Research UK

A survey by Cancer Research UK’s helpline nurses has revealed that patients mainly need information to understand their situation and for peace of mind - not just to make treatment choices. The results are published today in Cancer Nursing Practice.

More than half of respondents* in a survey of Cancer Research UK’s telephone helpline and email service users said that they sought information to have a specific question answered (63 per cent) and to cope with and understand their situation more clearly (46 per cent). Only a small number of people cited a need for information to make decisions (11 per cent).

These findings emphasised the important role played by Cancer Research UK and other helplines to answer patients’ questions to help them understand their situation more clearly.

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head information nurse, said: “It’s incredibly important that patients can make informed decisions. It’s easy to assume that people with cancer ask for information mainly to help them do this. But this survey showed that many people who contact us have a fundamental need to understand their situation which is not related to making a choice.”

Cancer Research UK has a range of patient information services. Its helpline on freephone 0808 800 4040 9am until 5pm Monday to Friday and email service is staffed by experienced cancer nurses who respond to around 10,500 enquiries each year. The charity also has an information web site cancerhelp.cancerresearchuk.org and forum www.cancerchat.org.uk.

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References

  • Being informed is a patient’s fundamental need; results of a survey of users of Cancer Research UK’s telephone helpline and email service. Cancer Nursing Practice.

Notes to Editor

The 2011 survey was sent out in January and February 2011.  Helpline nurses asked permission to send callers a postal questionnaire.  Nurse responses by email included a link to an online survey.

Of 508 phone enquirers, 282 agreed to be sent a questionnaire and 147 questionnaires were completed and returned, giving an overall response rate of 29 per cent.

542 email replies, 134 online questionnaires were completed giving an overall response rate of 24 per cent to the email questionnaire.