Background: In January 2010, the Cancer Council Helpline Network established a minimum national database (MND) to collect data on people who contacted helplines from each state and Territory.
Aim: This analysis sought to determine carer (family members/close friends) use of cancer helplines as well as demographic characteristics and information and support needs of this caller group.
Methods: MND data from January 2010 to December 2012 were analyzed. State-wide and national proportion of calls to the helplines for the period of evaluation were computed by means of national population data. The estimated total number of new cancers diagnosed within each state for years’ 2010 -2012 were calculated using national cancer incidence data extrapolated from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) from years’ 2006 to 2008. Descriptive analysis such as percentages were determined; chi-square and logistic regression were used for comparing the demographic characteristics of callers.
Results: Across Australia, 42,892 carers contacted cancer helplines; 83% were first contacts. The majority of calls received were from women (81%), middle (40%) and high (41%) socio-economic backgrounds, and from carers aged 40-59 years (46%). Half the carers (52%) sought general information (e.g. cancer diagnosis, symptoms, practical issues), 26% requested psychological/emotional support, and 22% discussed treatment and disease management. A decrease in the proportion of calls from carers to the Helpline within each state (except Western Australia) was observed over time. No significant age and gender differences or age by gender interaction effects were found regarding information and support needs.
Conclusions: These results provide service providers with important information on the specific information and support needs of carers of people diagnosed with cancer who call Australian helplines. This analysis identifies potential gaps in service delivery and whom promotion of cancer support services could be targeted.