Methods: This study used a cross-sectional survey design. A sample of 83 patients aged 18-45 and 40 intimate partners completed a service use questionnaire as part of a larger stress and dyadic coping study. Researchers partnered with oncology social work practitioners to adapt a service needs survey to the psychosocial issues and needs reported by young women served by the department. The resulting 25 items assessed felt needs and service utilization across three domains: informational resources, emotional needs, and practical support services. Participants used a 4-point Likert scale to indicate whether each item constituted an area of need and whether they had used services to address that need. “Unmet needs” existed if a respondent endorsed a need but the corresponding services were not accessed. Descriptive statistics and cross-tabulations using SPSS Software were used to summarize the proportion of patients and partners indicating unmet needs and to examine differences by sociodemographic, clinical, and relational variables.
Results: Approximately 60% of patients and 40%-77% of partners presented one or more unmet need across the three domains. For both, unmet supportive needs included access to age-appropriate program content (46%; 45.6%), counseling related to sexuality (46.4%; 47.3%) and family relations (37.2%; 35.7%). Women reported unmet needs services related to work/school accommodations (47.4%) and financial concerns (46.6%), while men reported financial concerns, health insurance, and caregiving demands were practical priorities (46.7%; 40%; 38.5%). Informational needs regarding cancer recurrence, symptom management, and treatment decision-making, although elevated, were generally met by the institution.
Conclusions and Implications: Substantial proportions of unmet service needs exist for young women with breast cancer and their partners. Challenges were exacerbated by the lack of developmentally targeted psychosocial programs pertaining to supportive and practical needs. Clinician-researchers make effective teams, and should examine the feasibility of designing, implementing and scaling such programs into standard care.