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Better Knowledge Needed of Unmet Needs of Cancer Survivors

Laura Joszt, MA

Although the number of individuals who have survived lymphoma is increasing globally, there remains limited knowledge about the needs of these survivors. A poster presented at the European Society of Medical Oncology addressed this gap in knowledge with a systematic review to evaluate the available evidence related to the unmet needs of these patients.1 The authors found 39 articles: 13 from the United States, 7 from Australia, and 4 from the United Kingdom. More than half (54%) studied a homogenous diagnosis of lymphoma and 78% used quantitative methods.

The findings showed a variety of unmet needs for survivors of lymphoma, but because the participants were recruited through different ways—33% from cancer registries and 30% from single sites, for example—there was a disparity in demographics reporting that prevents “further analysis to generate a more substantive understanding of this cohort,” the authors wrote. They identified 6 areas of unmet needs:

  • Psychological—diminished cognitive ability and sexual concerns

  • Physical—fatigue and diminished mobility

  • Social—diminished social functioning and changed relationships

  • Emotional—anxiety and concerns for the future

  • Informational—communication with caregivers and treatment and adverse effects

  • Practical—financial issues and access to health services

“Many lymphoma survivors are dependent on health services, however disruptions to continuity of care at the end of treatment, involving abrupt transition and a sense of abandonment highlights an unmet need relating to health service delivery,” the authors added. They noted that additional research is needed to continue adding to the knowledge of the needs of patients who survived lymphoma. Another study reviewed the long-term issues and late effects of cancer survivors.2 A German study included a total of 1874 patients across 15 cancer entities. They were enrolled 2 years after diagnosis and a follow-up survey was conducted between December 2020 and April 2021. The individuals were asked how much 35 potential long-term problems or late effects of their cancer were or are a burden to them and how much support they received if they reported a burden. The respondents completed the survey a median of 4.2 years after their diagnosis. The mean age of the respondents was 65.8 years and 49% were female. Sexual problems were an extreme burden for 10.01% of the respondents, mostly men and mostly those with prostate cancer. In addition, this issue had the highest proportion of dissatisfaction for support, with 44.7% rating support as poor. The most frequently reported problems with a moderate burden were:

  1. Loss of physical capacity (40.7%)

  2. Fatigue (38.5%)

  3. Sleep problems (36.6%)

  4. Sexual problems (35.4%)

  5. Arthralgia (33.4%)

  6. Anxiety (33.2%)

  7. Neuropathy (28.9%)

Additional problems that survivors rated as receiving poor support for were:

  1. Fatigue (37.7%)

  2. Neuropathy (35.9%)

  3. Cognitive problems (35.3%)

  4. Weight gain (34.7%)

  5. Hot flashes/night sweats (51.3%)

A majority (51.3%) of survivors rated the support for pain as good. “Our study identified several groups with open needs for improvements in supportive care,” the authors wrote. References 1. Boland V, Drury A, Brady A-M. The unmet needs of lymphoma cancer survivors—a rapid review of the evidence. Presented at: ESMO 2021; September 16-21, 2021. Abstract CN67. 2. Schmidt ME, Hermann S, Steindorf K. Late effects, long-term problems, and unmet needs of cancer survivors. Presented at: ESMO 2021; September 16-21, 2021. Abstract 16690_PR.

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