Cancer Survivors Miss Out on Help With Mental Wellbeing

Large numbers of cancer survivors are reporting ‘unmet needs’ following their all-clear diagnosis, with an increasing number of cancer survivors living in fear their cancer will return, but without adequate psychological support to cope.

Will the highest ever survival rate for all cancers, at 66 per cent1, up to 70 per cent of cancer survivors have reported clinical levels of fear of their cancer returning2, with close to a third of all cancer survivors experiencing psychological issues (such as anxiety or depression) in the six months following their cancer3.

A recent Australian study also found that cancer survivors are more at risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol4.

‘Unmet needs’ experienced by cancer survivors can include worry about whether treatment has worked, lack of knowledge about what support is available, concerns around fertility and sexuality, workplace challenges, as well as financial concerns that can create barriers to seeking health care and support5.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said around 180,000 Queenslanders were alive today after a diagnosis of cancer in the past 25 years.

“Up to one-third of all cancer patients suffer clinically significant distress and few seek help or treatment for that distress.,” Ms Clift said.

“The emotional impact of cancer has largely been overlooked in models of primary care, despite the serious consequences of distress on a patients’ prospects of long-term survival and quality of life.

“Life does not always go ‘back to normal’ following a cancer diagnosis.

“Queensland cancer survivors are in great need of specialised support for a range of emotional, physical and practical concerns following diagnosis.

“With the help of all Queenslanders this Daffodil Day, we will be able to continue our vital patient support services across the state, improving the quality of life for cancer survivors.

“Services like Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20 and our free Cancer Counselling Service are staffed by fully qualified psychologists to assist cancer patients and their families from diagnosis, right through treatment and beyond.

“Our six statewide accommodation lodges provide a home away from home for regional cancer patients having to travel to major cities from treatment, free of charge.

“Make a donation this Daffodil Day and grow hope for Queenslanders diagnosed with cancer.”

This Daffodil Day, Cancer Council Queensland hopes to raise $1.7 million to support its vital work in cancer research, education and patient support services.

For more information about Daffodil Day, visit, or call the Fundraising Hotline 1300 65 65 85.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available via Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20 or

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland

Ph: (07) 3634 5372 or 0409 001 171

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Cancer survival and prevalence in Australia: period estimates from 1982 to 2010. Cancer Series no. 69. Cat. no. CAN 65. Canberra: AIHW 2012.
2. Thewes B, Butow P, Bell ML, Beith J, Stuart-Harris R, Grossi M, Capp A, Dalley D. Fear of cancer recurrence in young women with a history of early-stage breast cancer: a cross-sectional study of prevalence and association with health behaviours. Support Care Canc 2012, 20(11):2651-2659.
3. Allison W. Boyes, Afaf Girgis, Catherine D’Este, Alison C. Zucca. Flourishing or floundering? Prevalence and correlates of anxiety and depression among a population-based sample of adult cancer survivors 6 months after diagnosis’ Journal of Affective Disorders 135 (2011) pp184–192
4. Narelle M Berry, Michelle D Miller, Richard J Woodman, John Coveney, James Dollman, Catherine R Mackenzie and Bogda Koczwara. Differences in chronic conditions and lifestyle behaviour between people with a history of cancer and matched controls. Med J Aust 2014; 201 (2): 96-100.
5. Campbell HS, Sanson-Fisher R, Turner D, Hayward L, Wang XS, Taylor-Brown J. Psychometric properties of cancer survivors’ unmet needs survey. Support Care Cancer. 2010 Feb;19(2):221-30. doi: 10.1007/s00520-009-0806-0. Epub 2010 Jan 23.

Notes to editors:
The term “unmet needs” is used to distinguish between problems which survivors experience and problems they wish for help in managing.

The top ten unmet needs of cancer survivors include:

  1. Fear about cancer spreading
  2. Being told I had cancer
  3. Not feeling sure that the cancer has gone
  4. Feeling tired
  5. Finding financial assistance is available and how to obtain it
  6. Feeling stressed
  7. Finding information
  8. Coping with bad memory, lack of focus
  9. Dealing with feeling worried (anxiety)
  10. Worry whether treatment has worked