Prospective evaluation of unmet needs of rural and aboriginal cancer survivors in Northern British Columbia

  • R.A. Olson BC Cancer Agency, University of British Columbia
  • F. Howard University of British Columbia
  • K. Turnbull University of Northern British Columbia
  • D. Munroe BC Cancer Agency
  • C. Zirul University of Northern British Columbia
  • R. Manji University of British Columbia
  • P. Tobin BC Cancer Agency
  • A. Ward University of British Columbia
Keywords: Survivorship, aboriginal, First Nations, rural, remote, unmet needs



The unmet needs of cancer survivors in rural, remote, and aboriginal communities are largely unexplored. We explored potential differences between rural survivors (rss) in 4 general population (gp) and 4 First Nations (fn) communities.


We approached 4 gp and 4 fn rs communities to participate in a mixed methods project. Participants completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (hads) and the Survivor Unmet Needs Survey (suns) and provided demographic information. Each question on the suns can be scored from 0 to 4, with 0 representing “no unmet need” and 4 representing “very high unmet need.” A directed approach to content analysis of focus group and interview data was used to triangulate the hads and suns results.


We prospectively accrued 23 fn rss and 56 gp rss for this study. More fn rss had borderline or abnormal anxiety (5% vs. 21%, p = 0.02). Compared with gp rss, fn rss had higher unmet needs scores in all categories: Information (2.29 vs. 0.8, p < 0.001), Work and Financial (1.66 vs. 0.5, p < 0.001), Access and Continuity of Health Care (1.83 vs. 0.44, p < 0.001), Coping and Sharing (2.22 vs. 0.62, p < 0.001), and Emotional (2.12 vs. 0.63, p < 0.001). The qualitative findings provided examples and insight into the unmet needs experienced by rss.


First Nations rss had significantly higher anxiety and unmet needs compared with their gp rs counterparts. In addition, different qualitative themes were identified in the groups. Our findings support the development of tailored approaches to survivorship for these populations.

Author Biography

R.A. Olson, BC Cancer Agency, University of British Columbia
Department of Surgery, Division of Radiation Oncology and Developmental Radiotherapeutics, Assistant Professore (tenure track)
How to Cite
Olson, R., Howard, F., Turnbull, K., Munroe, D., Zirul, C., Manji, R., Tobin, P., & Ward, A. (2014). Prospective evaluation of unmet needs of rural and aboriginal cancer survivors in Northern British Columbia. Current Oncology, 21(2), e179-e185.
Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship