A Mixed-Methods Study of Unmet Supportive Care Needs Among Head and Neck Cancer Survivors

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Abstract

Background

Head and neck cancer (HNC) survivors face increasing challenges to adjust to the diagnosis and late effects of treatment. Identifying unmet needs among HNC survivors is therefore important to provide a comprehensive supportive care service for them.

Objective

The aim of this study was to examine the unmet supportive care needs (SCNs) of HNC survivors in the first year after treatment.

Methods

An explanatory sequential mixed-method design with 2 phases was used. In the quantitative phase, standardized questionnaires were administered to 285 Chinese HNC survivors to solicit their demographic and clinical characteristics, unmet SCNs, and access to various support services. In the qualitative phase, individual semistructured interviews were conducted with 53 participants to explore their unmet needs in more detail.

Results

The most prevalent unmet SCNs among the survivors were in the health system and information domain. Five categories of unmet needs emerged from the interview data: physical, psychological, health system and information, patient care and support, and sexuality. The findings reflect the inadequacy of the healthcare services for these survivors.

Conclusion

Chinese HNC survivors experienced a variety of unmet SCNs, particularly in the areas of symptom management and healthcare system and information provision.

Implications for Practice

The study provides insights that can (1) inform future service development, including regular symptom identification and management, improvements in communication, and counseling services and (2) identify the specific needs of these survivors as the basis for tailoring care to meet their needs.

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