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Terry Bunston, Deborah Mings, Normand Laperriere, Jacquey Malcolm and Dorothy Williams

The diagnosis of cancer of the central nervous system (CNS) is often the diagnosis of an incurable, progressive disease with devastating effects on the physical, psychosocial, and cognitive functioning of patients. Because many of the treatment options are noncurative in nature, issues related to quality and quantity of life become paramount.

The purpose of the authors' research was to explore the prevalence of psychosocial needs in this cancer population and to determine whether these needs and their resolution impact on quality of life (QOL).

Telephone interviews were conducted with 75 patients in whom primary CNS cancer was diagnosed and who were able to pass the Mini-Mental Health Status Examination. Analysis of results indicated that the majority of patients (97.3%) had at least one concern; concerns over treatment side effects, controlling uncertainty, having a meaningful existence, self and body image, and family concerns were among the five most frequently cited need domains. Most patients (91.8%) received help. However, 75.3% reported needing additional help. The number of needs reported and the severity of fatigue most significantly impacted QOL.

The study identified the needs and experiences of the patient with CNS cancer. Quality of life and needs assessment information can be used to screen patients for distress and to measure the outcome of medical and psychosocial care and ultimately to ease the burden of illness.