Non-Medical Aspect of
Cancer Care Survey Results
Roper Starch Worldwide Inc. conducted a survey of oncologists and female cancer patients to determine how women suffering from cancer are dealing with the non-medical aspect of cancer — the emotional, social and physical appearance side effects that can result from chemotherapy and radiation.
The survey was commissioned by the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, a charitable organization established by Personal Care Products Council, the trade association that represents the cosmetics industry. The Personal Care Products Council Foundation is the founder of Look Good Feel Better®, a national public service program created from the concept that if a woman with cancer can be helped to look good, her improved self-esteem will help her to approach her disease and treatment with greater confidence.
Look Good Feel Better is offered through a partnership with the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the American Cancer Society (ACS), one of the nation’s largest voluntary health organizations, and the National Cosmetology Association (NCA), a national organization of hairstylists, wig experts, estheticians, makeup artists and nail technicians.
Oncologists consider the non-medical aspects of cancer care to be very important to the patient’s well-being.
- 75 percent of the oncologists surveyed consider the non-medical aspects of cancer to be very important.
- 23 percent consider the non-medical aspects to be somewhat important.
Oncologists and patients generally agree that support programs providing non-medical cancer care can be effective in improving the patient’s quality of life.
- 82 percent of oncologists who have had female patients participate in a support program believe they are extremely or very effective.
- 9 out of every 10 female cancer patients who have participated in a support program feel that the program lived up to or exceeded their expectations.
There appears to be a need for support programs. The vast majority of female cancer patients experience side effects during chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Yet participation in local support programs is low despite a relatively high awareness level.
- 82 percent of the female cancer patients experienced changes to their physical appearance and 67 percent experienced emotional changes.
- 26 percent of the cancer patients had participated in a support program.
While the majority of physicians talk to their patients about support programs, physicians do not seem to strongly promote patients’ participation in them. They tend to mention support programs in generalities and then do not follow up with patients, encouraging and supporting their participation.
71 percent report they talk to their female cancer patients about support programs. Of those who talk about support groups:
- 63 percent mention that they are available, if needed.
- 27 percent describe them as good/helpful, offer support.
- 17 percent give their patients information on support programs that exist.
- 10 percent recommend the patient try a support program at least once.
- 9 percent say they provide an opportunity for patients to talk and be with others to avoid feeling alone.
The majority of physicians admit they are not fully up to speed in dealing with the non-medical aspects of cancer care, yet their patients perceive them to be fully informed.
- 36 percent of physicians describe themselves as knowing a great deal about the non-medical aspects of cancer care.
- 66 percent of the patients believe their physician knows a great deal about the non-medical aspects of cancer care.
Communication between doctors and patients needs to be improved.
- Just over one half of the cancer patients say their doctor discusses side effects before treatment, while almost all doctors say they discuss side effects before treatment.
The benefits of support programs must be further communicated to physicians and patients. Support programs cannot just rely on physicians for increased participation. Appeals can be made on the high level of satisfaction reported by support program participants. In addition, there appears a need to demonstrate the benefits of support programs to family and friends of cancer patients.
- 83 percent of patients rely on a family member or friend for meeting their needs in dealing with the non-medical aspects of cancer care.
- 73 percent rely on their physician and 64 percent their physician’s nurse for information about non-medical aspects of cancer care.
Telephone interviews were completed during October and November, 1998, with 301 oncologists and 351 women who have undergone chemotherapy or radiation treatment for any type of cancer within the past two years.
For more information about the survey, its methodology or a copy, or for more information about Look Good Feel Better, contact Misty Bastian at (202) 331-1770.