Psychosocial well-being and supportive care needs of cancer patients and survivors living in rural or regional areas: a systematic review from 2010 to 2021

S.R. van der Kruk, P. Butow, I. Mesters, T. Boyle, I. Olver, K. White, S. Sabesan, R. Zielinski, B.A. Chan, K. Spronk, P. Grimison, C. Underhill, L. Kirsten, K.M. Gunn*, Clinical Oncological Society of Australia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Purpose To summarise what is currently known about the psychosocial morbidity, experiences, and needs of people with cancer and their informal caregivers, who live in rural or regional areas of developed countries. Methods Eligible studies dating from August 2010 until May 2021 were identified through several online databases, including MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, and RURAL (Rural and Remote Health Database). Results were reported according to the PRISMA guidelines and the protocol was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42020171764). Results Sixty-five studies were included in this review, including 20 qualitative studies, 41 quantitative studies, and 4 mixed methods studies. Qualitative research demonstrated that many unique psychosocial needs of rural people remain unmet, particularly relating to finances, travel, and accessing care. However, most (9/19) quantitative studies that compared rural and urban groups reported no significant differences in psychosocial needs, morbidity, or quality of life (QOL). Five quantitative studies reported poorer psychosocial outcomes (social and emotional functioning) in urban cancer survivors, while three highlighted poorer outcomes (physical functioning, role functioning, and self-reported mental health outcomes) in the rural group. Conclusion Recent research shows that rural people affected by cancer have unique unmet psychosocial needs relating to rurality. However, there was little evidence that rural cancer survivors report greater unmet needs than their urban counterparts. This contrasts to the findings from a 2011 systematic review that found rural survivors consistently reported worse psychosocial outcomes. More population-based research is needed to establish whether uniquely rural unmet needs are due to general or cancer-specific factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1021-1064
Number of pages44
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number2
Early online date14 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Cancer
  • Rural
  • Psychosocial
  • Healthcare needs
  • Informal caregivers
  • Oncology


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