Information Needs of Cancer Patients are Influenced by Time Since Diagnosis, Stage of Cancer, Patients’ Age, and Preferred Role in Treatment-related Decisions

John Loy


A review of:

Kalyani, Ankem. “Factors Influencing Information Needs Among Cancer Patients: A Meta-Analysis.” Library & Information Science Research; 28.1 (2006) 7-23.

Objective – The author aims to study the aggregate influence of demographic and situational variables on the information needs of cancer patients, in order to inform the provision of information to those patients.

Design – Meta-analysis.

Setting – Research articles published in the MEDLINE and CINAHL databases.

Subjects – English language studies published between 1993 and 2003. An initial search set of 196 studies from MEDLINE and 283 studies from CINAHL were identified. Following rigorous assessment, 12 studies met the inclusion criteria.

Methods – A comprehensive search of the databases was conducted, initially combining “neoplasm” with “cancer patients” using the Boolean “or”. These results were then combined with five separate searches using the following terms; information need(s), information seeking, information seeking behaviour, information source(s) and information resource(s). This identified in total 479 English language articles. Based on a review of titles and abstracts, 110 articles were found covering information resources or the information needs of cancer patients. These articles were then subjected to the further inclusion criteria and limited to studies which included: analysis of information needs and/or information sources of cancer patients; adults as subjects of the research; and application of quantitative research methods and relevant statistics.

This eliminated a further 35 papers. Twelve of the remaining 75 studies were selected for meta-analysis based on their use of the same variables measured consistently in comparable units. The final 12 studies included various forms of cancer, and no distinction was made among them. All 12 studies appeared in peer-reviewed journals.

Main results – The meta-analysis found there was consistently no difference between the information needs of men and women. Five subsets were identified within the meta-analysis, and findings for each can be stated as follows:

  • The younger the age of the patient, the greater their overall need for information was likely to be.

  • During treatment, the time elapsed from the diagnosis to the information need was not significant. Once identified, the information need remained constant.

  • During treatment and post-treatment phases, the time elapsed from the diagnosis to the information need made no significant difference, with the information need remaining constant and continuing into the post-treatment phase.

  • The stage of cancer made no difference to the need for information. Those patients in the advanced stages of cancer required an equal amount of information to those in the early stages of cancer.

  • The individual patient’s preferred role in treatment-related decisions made a difference to the information need. Patients who took an active role in treatment-related decisions had a greater need for information than those who did not take an active role.

Conclusion – Findings from this meta-analysis can be used to guide information provision to cancer patients, specifically taking patient age and preferred role in treatment decision-making into consideration. Further research into the reasons behind the lower information needs among older patients is called for by the author.

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