Background: During the course of cancer, patients are repeatedly challenged with complex information and may be involved in difficult decisions concerning their treatment and care. Information is often regarded as unambiguously beneficial. However, it may be that not all patients want all available information about their disease and treatment.
Aim: To explore individual differences in cancer patients’ information needs, information-seeking behaviors, satisfaction and perceived helpfulness of the information received.
Methods: Patients with various cancers attending an oncology outpatient clinic completed questionnaires including items measuring their information-seeking behaviors, the EORTC information questionnaire, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Decision Self-Efficacy Scale, measuring confidence in one’s ability to participate in decision-making.
Results: Of the 494 eligible patients, 272 (56%) (Mean age: 61 yrs, 40% males) completed the questionnaires. Patients exhibiting an active information-seeking style (60%) reported higher levels of anxiety (M=6.7; SE=4.1) compared to patients with a passive style (M=5.2; SE=4.0) (p < 0.05). Multiple linear regression revealed that patients who were less satisfied with the amount of information received, tended to be in curative treatment (β =0.14; p=0.02; 95% CI: 1.12-13.17), to have an active information-seeking style (β= -0.14; p=0.03; 95% CI: -13.44 to -0.57), and to be lower in decision self-efficacy (β=0.20; p<0.01; 95% CI: 0.21-1.07). The only predictor of perceived helpfulness of the information received was decision self-efficacy (β=0.19; p=0.01; 95% CI: 0.13-0.94).
Conclusion: Patients with an active information-seeking style were more anxious than patients with a passive style and less satisfied with the amount of information received throughout their cancer course. Patients who were less efficacious regarding decision-making were also less satisfied with the amount of information received and perceived the information as less helpful.
Implications: Attempts to improve information in cancer care should take the role of information-seeking style and decision self-efficacy into consideration.