Organizing Psycho-Oncological Care for Cancer Patients: The Patient’s Perspective

Anouk S. Schuit, Karen Holtmaat, Valesca van Zwieten, Eline J. Aukema, Lotte Gransier, Pim Cuijpers, Irma M. Verdonck-de Leeuw

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Background: Cancer patients often suffer from psychological distress during or after cancer treatment, but the use of psycho-oncological care among cancer patients is limited. One of the reasons might be that the way psycho-oncological care is organized, does not fit patients’ preferences. This study aimed to obtain detailed insight into cancer patients’ preferences regarding the organization of psycho-oncological care. Methods: 18 semi-structured interviews were conducted among cancer patients. Patients completed psycho-oncological treatment between 2015 and 2020 at the psychology department in a general hospital or a center specialized in psychological cancer care in the Netherlands. The interview comprised questions related to preferences regarding the institute where to receive treatment, the psychologist who provides treatment, and the type of treatment, as well as questions related to experienced barriers and facilitators to receive psycho-oncological care. Interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed individually by two coders into key issues and themes. Results: Regarding the institute, easy accessibility and prompt availability of psychol-oncological care were considered important. Regarding the psychologist, most participants had a strong preference to be treated by a psychologist specialized in cancer or other somatic diseases. Individual face-to-face therapy was preferred above other types of treatment. Several barriers were mentioned to receive psycho-oncological treatment, among which poor accessibility to psycho-oncological care, lack of knowledge on the possibilities for psycho-oncological treatment, and stigma. Most frequently mentioned facilitators were being assertive to ask for help, having a good relationship with the healthcare professional, and the integration of psycho-oncological support within medical cancer care. Conclusion: From the patient’s perspective, the organization of psycho-oncological care for cancer patients should focus on easy accessibility and availability, delivered by specialized psychologists, and integration in medical cancer care. Online and group therapy are acceptable, but individual face-to-face therapy is preferred. It is warranted to increase awareness on psycho-oncological care targeting both patients and healthcare providers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number625117
JournalFrontiers in psychology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2021


  • cancer distress
  • patient preferences
  • psycho-oncological care
  • psychological care
  • supportive care

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