Relationships among unmet needs, depression, and anxiety in non–advanced cancer patients

Martina Ferrari, Carla I. Ripamonti*, Nicholas J. Hulbert-Williams, Guido Miccinesi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: In oncology settings, less attention is given to patients’ unmet needs and to existential and emotional distress compared to physical symptoms. We aimed to evaluate correlations between unmet needs and emotional distress (self-reported anxiety and depression) in a consecutive cohort of cancer patients. The influence of sociodemographic and clinical factors was also considered. Methods: A total of 300 patients with cancer recruited from an outpatient Supportive Care Unit of a Comprehensive Cancer Centre completed the Need Evaluation Questionnaire and the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS). Unmet needs covered 5 distinct domains (informational, care/assistance, relational, psychoemotional, and material). Results: After removal of missing data, we analyzed data from 258 patients. Need for better information on future health concerns (43%), for better services from the hospital (42%), and to speak with individuals in the same condition (32%) were the most frequently reported as unmet. Based on the ESAS, 27.2% and 17.5% of patients, respectively, had a score of anxiety or depression >3 and needed further examination for psychological distress. Female patients had significantly higher scores for anxiety (p < 0.001) and depression (p = 0.008) compared to male patients. Unmet needs were significantly correlated with both anxiety (rs = 0.283) and depression (rs = 0.284). Previous referral to a psychologist was significantly associated with depression scores (p = 0.015). Results were confirmed by multiple regression analysis. Conclusions: Screening for unmet needs while also considering sociodemographic and clinical factors allows early identification of cancer patients with emotional distress. Doing so will enable optimal management of psychological patient-reported outcomes in oncology settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-150
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • anxiety
  • Cancer
  • depression
  • patient-centered care
  • supportive care
  • unmet needs


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