Background: People living with advanced cancer may experience significant distress and reduced quality of life due to their symptom burden and life-limiting prognosis. Limited research has investigated the role of psychosocial support in their experiences post-diagnosis.
Research Question: What are advanced cancer patients’ experiences of psychosocial support provided by family, friends, health professionals and/or health services?
Methods: This study used an exploratory qualitative research design and drew upon a social constructionist interpretive framework. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 23 participants recruited from two tertiary hospitals in Western Australia. Participants were asked about their experiences accessing and using psychosocial support following their diagnosis. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed and analysed using deductive thematic analysis.
Results: Participants’ experiences with psychosocial support could be described using six themes: 1) types of support accessed, 2) impact of support, 3) need, 4) access, 5) awareness, and 6) attitudes toward using support. Not all participants were able to access care that met their needs. Barriers included suitability of available support (e.g. mode of delivery, face-to-face vs. phone-based), accessibility (e.g. proximity to services, availability of health professionals such as social workers, ability to access financial support), and reluctant help-seeking behaviour.
Conclusion: Service-level barriers to psychosocial supportive care identified in this study need to be resolved. Providers of psychosocial supportive care should review service availability and accessibility for advanced cancer patients. Future psychosocial interventions targeting people with advanced cancer need to address barriers to support during development and implementation.