Background and Context:
Cancer helplines play an important role in the provision of information and support to people affected by cancer. Understanding the specific needs of carers/family members and people diagnosed with cancer is important if support is continued to be efficiently and effectively provided by helplines in the future.
This is a descriptive, retrospective audit of people who contacted the Cancer Council Helpline in South Australia who had been diagnosed with cancer (n=5,766) or were the carers or family members (n=5,144) of a person with cancer, between 16 April 2009 and 16 April 2013.
Non-parametric (chi-squared tests for independence) were performed to identify significant differences on both continuous and categorical variables. Where necessary, non-parametric Mann Whitney-U Tests were used for continuous variables, as the assumption of normality was not met.
Carers/family were more likely to be female (p=<.001), younger in age (p=<.001), call regarding advanced cancer (p=<.001) and request general information or emotional support (p=<.001). They were more distressed (p=<.001) but less likely (p=0.02) to be referred to counselling (7.2% versus 8.4%). 52.8% of carers/family and 63.9% of people with cancer required follow-up care according to distress guidelines but only 8.5% and 15.3% respectively were referred to internal services.
People with cancer were more likely to be male (p=<.001), older (p=<.001), discuss cancer in the early, treatment, remission or survivorship stages and seek advice on detection, practical issues or treatment.
Outcomes/What was learned:
Callers to cancer helplines who have been diagnosed with cancer differ from the carers/family members who call. Carers/family members represent different demographic groups, phone regarding different issues, at different stages of disease progression and display higher levels distress but are less likely to be referred to internal counselling services (for which both groups are eligible).