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Healthcare services and medication use among cancer survivors and their partners: a cross-sectional analysis of 16 European countries

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To estimate the association between a cancer diagnosis and the use of healthcare services and medication among cancer survivors (CS) and their partners (PCS), particularly in the first years after diagnosis.


This is a cross-sectional study based on data from the Fourth Wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe—SHARE (2010–2011); it included individuals aged ≥ 50 years and their partners, from 16 European countries. All CS diagnosed with a first primary cancer within 10 years (n = 1174) and corresponding PCS (n = 1174) were country-, sex-, age- and education-matched (1:3) with non-cancer individuals (NC) and partners of non-cancer individuals (PNC), respectively. Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were computed.


Healthcare use in the previous 12 months and current medication intake were more frequent among CS than NC; the ORs (95% CIs) were 2.56 (2.23–2.94) for ≥ 8 medical contacts, 3.07 (2.62–3.59) for hospital stays and 1.75 (1.52–2.03) for use of ≥ 3 drugs indicated for different health problems. Medical contacts (OR = 5.74, 95% CI 4.31–7.65) and hospitals stays (OR = 13.88, 95% CI 10.15–18.98) were more frequent among CS diagnosed in the last 2 years. Contacts with medical doctors (≥ 8; OR = 1.23, 95% CI 1.06–1.42) were also more common among PCS than PNC.


When compared to individuals without cancer, CS diagnosed in the last 10 years, as well as their partners, had an increased healthcare use.

Implication for Cancer Survivors

These findings highlight the importance of family-focused care in oncological settings, in order to support patients as well as their partners, who are frequently their closest significant person.

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The SHARE data collection has been funded by the European Commission through FP5 (QLK6-CT-2001-00360), FP6 (SHARE-I3: RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE: CIT5-CT-2005-028857, SHARELIFE: CIT4-CT-2006-028812), FP7 (SHARE-PREP: GA N°211909, SHARE-LEAP: GA N°227822, SHARE M4: GA N°261982) and Horizon 2020 (SHARE-DEV3: GA N°676536, SERISS: GA N°654221) and by DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion. Additional funding from the German Ministry of Education and Research, the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01_AG09740-13S2, P01_AG005842, P01_AG08291, P30_AG12815, R21_AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG_BSR06-11, OGHA_04-064, HHSN271201300071C) and from various national funding sources is gratefully acknowledged (see


This study was funded by national funding from the Foundation for Science and Technology—FCT (Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education), under the Unidade de Investigação em EpidemiologiaInstituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (EPIUnit) (UIDB/04750/2020). An individual PhD grant attributed to ARC (SFRH/BD/102181/2014) was co-funded by FCT and the Programa Operacional Capital Humano (POCH/FSE).

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Correspondence to Nuno Lunet.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The Ethics Committee at the University of Mannheim approved Waves 1 to 4. The Fourth Wave was approved by the Ethics Council of the Max-Planck-Society. Additionally, whenever required, the implementation of SHARE in each country was approved by the respective ethics committees or institutional review boards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Costa, A.R., Alves, L. & Lunet, N. Healthcare services and medication use among cancer survivors and their partners: a cross-sectional analysis of 16 European countries. J Cancer Surviv 14, 720–730 (2020).

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