Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 21, Issue 9, pp 2547–2555 | Cite as

Psychosocial service use: a qualitative exploration from the perspective of rural Australian cancer patients

  • Kate GunnEmail author
  • Deborah Turnbull
  • J. Lindsay McWha
  • Matthew Davies
  • Ian Olver
Original Article



This study aims to identify key issues associated with the provision of psychosocial care from the perspective of rural Australian cancer patients and determine culturally appropriate methods that may reduce barriers to service use.


Seventeen purposively sampled adult South Australians who lived outside metropolitan Adelaide, had a diagnosis of cancer and various demographic and medical histories participated in semi-structured, face-to-face interviews. Participants also completed a demographic questionnaire. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic analysis.


Five key themes were identified: (1) psychosocial support is highly valued by those who have accessed it, (2) having access to both lay and professional psychosocial support is vitally important, (3) accessing psychosocial services is made difficult by several barriers (lack of information about services, initial beliefs they are unnecessary, feeling overwhelmed and concerns about stigma and dual relationships), (4) medical staff located in metropolitan treatment centres are not sufficiently aware of the unique needs of rural patients and (5) patients require better access to psychosocial services post-treatment. Methods through which rural patients believe access to psychosocial services could be improved include: (1) providing more rural-specific information on psychosocial care, (2) improving communication between health care providers and referral to psychosocial services and (3) making psychosocial services a standard part of care.


Rural cancer patients want their unique needs to be recognised and to be treated differently to their urban counterparts. There is a need for more targeted and rurally relevant information for rural cancer patients, both to inform them of, and change their attitudes towards, psychosocial services. Other practical recommendations are also discussed.


Cancer Oncology Rural Psychosocial Support Barrier (6) 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance provided by participants, the Spencer Gulf Rural Health School (Primary Health Care Research Evaluation and Development Bursary) (now UniSA) and Cancer Council SA.

Conflict of interest

No conflicts of interest to declare. The authors have full control of the data and if requested, are willing to make it available to Supportive Care in Cancer.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kate Gunn
    • 1
    Email author
  • Deborah Turnbull
    • 1
  • J. Lindsay McWha
    • 1
  • Matthew Davies
    • 1
  • Ian Olver
    • 2
  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Cancer Council AustraliaSydneyAustralia

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