Purpose Little research has been done on supportive needs of cancer patients in acute hospitals in Japan. This study aims to comprehensively assess the unmet supportive needs of hospitalized cancer patients, as well as literacy and utilization of appropriate professional care. Methods All cancer patients (aged 20 to 80 years) who were hospitalized in a university hospital in Tokyo during the designated 3-day period between September 1 and October 31, 2007 were recruited for participation in the study. The M.D. Anderson Symptom Inventory, Brief Cancer-Related Worry Inventory, and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale were administered. Patients' knowledge and use of relevant services were evaluated. The results were compared with those of non-cancer patients in the same treatment settings. Results A total of 125 cancer patients and 59 non-cancer patients were enrolled. Cancer patients and non-cancer patients equally suffered from physical symptoms (15-26% had severe appetite loss, 18-19% had severe dry mouth, and 16-22% had severe pain); however, psychological distress of cancer patients exceeded that of non-cancer patients (28.0% vs 8.5%; p≤ 0.05). Severe psychological distress was associated with severe worry about future prospects or interpersonal and social issues and presence of two or more severe symptoms. Two thirds of the patients with severe psychological distress knew about the psychiatric division, but only one third actually sought treatment. Conclusions Needs related to psychological issues weremore prevalent among cancer patients than among non-cancer patients, despite a similar level of physical distress. Special attention should be paid to cancer patients who worry over future prospects or interpersonal and social issues, and those who have two or more severe symptoms.
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