People with cancer have trouble accessing appropriate psychological support, a new global report has found. Seven out of ten respondents (69%) said they needed psychological support either during or after their cancer care, but a third (34%) of those who needed it said it was ‘not available’.

In addition, two in five respondents (41%) said they were not given any information by their care team about patient advocacy groups, charities or other organisations which could support them.

The survey by All.Can international cancer initiative also found that even when psychological support was available, it was not always felt to be appropriate or helpful by respondents.

“Mental distress is common among cancer patients and can result in difficulty processing information, regretting decisions about treatment choices, and fear of their cancer coming back,” said Alex Filicevas, Head of EU Affairs the European Cancer Patient Coalition. “However, this new research highlights that the psychological and emotional aspects of cancer care are sadly often forgotten in cancer care.”

Only a minority receive psychological support and care

According to the International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS), there are significant gaps in provision of psycho-oncology services across Europe: 40–60% of cancer patients and family members experience psychological distress that could benefit from appropriate intervention, but only a minority receive psychological support and care.

Dr Matti Aapro, from the Genolier Cancer Center and member of the All.Can international steering committee said: “Psychological support is now recognised as an essential component of quality multidisciplinary cancer care and should be available to all cancer patients. Unfortunately, this often does not happen in practice – this is an important gap that needs to be filled.”

In addition to lack of psychological support, the All.Can report – based on results from a large international patient survey comprising nearly 4,000 people, affected by different cancers, across 10 countries – identifies four key opportunities for future efficiency improvements based on patient insights:

  • Ensuring a swift, accurate and appropriately delivered diagnosis
  • Improving information-sharing, support and shared decision-making
  • Making integrated multidisciplinary care a reality for all patients
  • Addressing the financial implications of cancer.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 20% of all healthcare spending is thought to be wasted on inefficient treatment and care. 

“It is so important that, as physicians, we listen to what patients are telling us in this survey,” said All.Can international member Christobel Saunders, breast cancer surgeon and Professor of Surgical Oncology at the University of Western Australia. “Each of the areas identified represents an opportunity to improve cancer care for patients and provide truly patient-driven care.”