Background The period immediately after the end of cancer treatment is a time when supportive care for the cancer patient decreases; this is known to increase risk of psychological distress and poor wellbeing. While there is broad recognition that unmet psychological and supportive care needs correlate with psychological wellbeing, little is understood about the factors that influence this relationship. This study explores the role of psychological flexibility, with a particular focus on its potential moderating role between unmet needs and psychological distress in haematological cancer survivors. Materials and method Haematological cancer survivors were recruited for this cross-sectional study through two major UK blood cancer charities. Participants (n=91) were all over the age of 16 and had been diagnosed with any sub-type of haematological cancer more than 18 months previously. Participants completed self-report questionnaires assessing unmet psychological and supportive care needs (SCNS SF34), anxiety and depression (HADS), quality of life (EORTC QLQ-C30) and psychological flexibility (AAQ II). Results High levels of both unmet need and distress were present in the sample, indicating on-going care needs for these cancer survivors. Statistically significant correlations between unmet needs, psychological flexibility and all outcome variables (anxiety, depression, quality of life) were found. Using regression analysis based on Hayes’ methodology (Hayes, 2013), psychological flexibility was found to act as a moderator between unmet need and distress in four out of 15 models; specifically, the statistical relationship between need and distress emerged only when levels of psychological flexibility were at average level or above. Discussion Haematological cancer survivors have on-going supportive care needs that persist well beyond the end of active treatment. Unmet needs can, in turn, increase levels of anxiety and depression, and reduce quality of life in this patient group. The understanding offered by our data that psychological flexibility plays a moderating relationship between need and psychological distress creates opportunities for the development of theoretically-informed interventions to reduce both unmet need and distress in cancer patients. As such, these findings support the growing emphasis on Acceptance and Commitment based interventions for cancer patients.
- Psychological flexibility
- Unmet need